Introduction With the rapid development and deployment of information and distributed computing technologies (IDCT), online learning and/or blended learning will play a more and more vital role in academic institutions (Means et al., 2010). It is important to discover and implement effective, efficient, secure, and scalable methods of delivering online, hands-on education. The speed of scientific and technological advances, along with resource constraints, makes it very difficult for schools to maintain technical currency in instructional labs. IDCT makes it possible to share computing capacity and deliver remote hands-on learning experiences effectively and efficiently. IDCT also brings unprecedented collaborative opportunities to bridge the digital divide in education not only between well-equipped schools and less-funded schools but also between developed countries and developing countries. Particularly, in recent years, virtualisation and cloud computing technologies have begun to show the potential to bring transformative changes to the infrastructures of online education in various fields. These technologies provide faculty and students with many opportunities previously unavailable in traditional lab environments.