Virtual containers play an important role in current distance education

Researchers from Universidad Internacional de La Rioja (UNIR) explore the concept of “transgenic learning”, a disruptive approach in online education. The study presents an experiment where they describe the transition from using convetional software distribution methods to the use of containers. Thanks to this virtualization approach, it is possible to deliver the necessary software-based lab scenarios.

By using the same academic structures that we did 20 years ago we will be missing new, adapted and personalized ways to learn and to teach. UNIR researchers are concern because society is often far advanced from any practical implementation in the classrooms, from kindergarden to the University. Because of that, researchers have proposed a disruptive boost called “transgenic learning”, something that makes things evolve quicker and more adapted into a very specific and practical objective.


Los contenedores fueron utilizados para distribuir a los estudiantes las tareas propuestas; dichos contenedores estaban “enriquecidos” con las herramientas necesarias de software, así como con ejemplos y manuales complementarios de soluciones. / Bonnie Kittle / Unsplash
Each set of tasks was delivered to the students as a virtual container; all the containers implemented the necessary software tools for each physics task, along with examples and complementary solution manuals. / Bonnie Kittle / Unsplash


Researchers have published an experiment carried out with this technology (an specific implementation called Docker) in the context of the subject of physics for software engineers at UNIR. Each set of tasks was delivered to the students as a virtual container; all the containers implemented the necessary software tools for each physics task, along with examples and complementary solutions manuals, freeing the students from royalties and allowing them to focus on how to solve the problem. The study shows that the students participation and satisfaction increased over time –80% of them claimed to be satisfied or very satisfied–. Over the course of a semester these resources were apenly available in the Docker and the students could access, download and run them as if they were Open Educational Resource (OER).

The study concludes that the combination of open educational resources, containers and modern distribution channels can play a significant role in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) education. As Daniel burgos, co-author, says: the using of the virtual containers represent a disruptive approach teaching and learning physics, and it follows the base of transgenic learning: modification of moving parts of the educational chain”.

Technology offered by virtual containers, despite advantages such their lightness and their ability to work in both development and production scenarios haven’t been very used in academic fild. As Alberto Corbi, co-author, says: “virtual containers are considered as the best solution to the problem of how to ensure that software runs reliably when it is transfered from one computer environment to another; in fact, containers are attracting the attention of science research groups who consider them as a means to ensure the reproductibility of experimental results”.


Daniel Burgos & Alberto Corbí (2018): Transgenic learning for STEAM subjects and virtual containers for OER, Distance Education, DOI: 10.1080/01587919.2018.1429894


March 5th.- Eva Ferreras