This paper presents the approach taken to give engineering students the necessary competencies and facilities to implement real-time control solutions. This goal is achieved first by way of an introduction to the basic principles underlying real-time control. Then, by motivating the use of personal computers as a versatile alternative to more traditional implementation equipment. Finally, by combining LabVIEW and DAQ boards to form an integrated framework for fast prototyping of real-time control solutions. Control algorithms written in G (the graphical programming language of LabVIEW), in C or as S-functions (MATLAB scripts describing SIMULINK dynamical models) can be validated on laboratory-scale processes. The possible real- time control and monitoring of ongoing operations, either locally on the host computer or remotely via the Internet, is a key feature from an educational point of view. In fact, the chosen paradigm truly enable the `learning by doing' approach. Moreover, this practical activity can be carried out at any time from anywhere to efficiently support automatic control study.