Found this gem on Rick Claus' blog just now. He said, "This comes up a lot when talking with IT folks. Everyone needs a lab to kick the tires and try stuff out. You can invest in the time to make it yourself and use EVAL software - or you can check out the vLabs on TechNet. I recommend the "build your own" approach, but sometimes a quickie v-lab will do the job. Remember - you DON'T need to follow the step by step - it can be freeform if you like."
Link to his blog post: http://regularitguy.com/2013/12/17/need-a-quick-labsandbox-to-try-out-msft-technologies/ Enjoy!
This is a good suggestion but, I would rather advice student to use Tech net and a standard classroom or online labs first to discover all the necessary guides, steps and NOTES. Afterward, you can progress using evaluation software to create new way of doing things.