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You may be wondering: how does Labster build a lab? How much of it is tech, and how much of it is science? Well, in the spirit of biotechnology, today we’re describing how we go from idea to execution of a Labster lab, like our recently finished ones: Animal Genetics and Enzyme Kinetics.

Step 1: The Idea

The germ of an idea comes directly from our collaborators, who are professors at the universities we partner with, like the University of Copenhagen and the Technical University of Denmark.

We take an initial meeting with these professors to discuss what they want out of the lab.  Specifically, we decide together with these educators on the key proposed learning objectives and the learning structure that will be covered in the case.

For example, the Animal Genetics lab teaches genetic mutations and Mendelian inheritance by basing the lab in a story about double muscled cattle. The idea behind this is to immerse students in a real-life science experience, so that they see the point of the science and are not just going through the motions of the experiments. In this meeting, we also finalize the experimental techniques, like PCR and Gel Electrophoresis. In other words, users actually have to do the science, not just learn it, all in a virtual setting.

Farm copySome of the cattle in the Animal Genetics lab are double muscled. The lab helps you figure out why. 

Step 2: The Development

We’ve written about the technical design and development here, but it’s important to add here that we write and implement the science content at the same time as the XML files are coded and the 3D animations are designed. For example, how can we code the quiz questions into the XML file if we don’t have them on hand yet? How can we link to the wiki theory page if it’s not written? This step requires diligent collaboration and open chains of communication among the collaborating educators, our content developers, and our tech guys. Skype and Powerpoint are our best friends—we’ve been known to design 100+ slide files as lab‘blueprints.’ This step usually takes between 1 and 3 months, but we’re revolutionizing the pace with our modular lab, which makes it easier and faster to design labs by adding and subtracting machines and case elements with very little code.

sequencerThe sequencer from our upcoming Next Generation Sequencing lab.

Step 3: The Testing

When we have a workable version, this is where we rely heavily on focus groups and on our community of beta-testers to give feedback and ‘bug hunt.’ We really appreciate these two forums for the wealth of input they deliver on the labs—from the level of difficulty of the quiz questions to the interactivity features like lab notebooks and interactive 3D animations. This is our chance to listen, listen, listen! We usually have several sessions over a month-long testing period.

Step 4: The Launch

Ready, set, go – it’s launch day! This day not a time for us to relax and watch our labs fly, because this is our chance to collect data. From the backend, we can monitor students’ performance as they progress through the lab, like for example which quiz questions particularly puzzle them. This data collection is integral, as we ultimately want to help students improve their learning! Indeed, we have found through our data analysis that students who use Labster do better than with traditional teaching.

If you’d like to purchase a Labster lab, you can order them directly here