Science education has always carried a higher price tag when it comes to lab experiences and field work. Unfortunately, educators are often forced to make sacrifices when it comes to experiential learning, either due to equipment costs, or limited time and access to state-of-the-art lab environments. The sacrifice is even greater when considering that experiential learning increases STEM graduation rates by 23%.
In a time when STEM educators are often asked to do more with less, virtual labs have emerged as a chance to level the field of experiential learning opportunities across high schools and universities. Science simulations broaden access to interactive virtual settings, where students can experiment in sophisticated lab environments that were once prohibitively expensive.
Virtual Labs Go Beyond the Limits of Budgets and Spaces
The global shift towards Hybrid Learning Models (models that blend digital and in-person learning strategies) has brought with it a new era of digitization, marked by the broad adoption of immersive virtual lab technology.
“I can’t do a microbiology laboratory on the level [virtual labs] can,” Says Emily Dehoff, who teaches biochemistry at the North County Career Center, in Vermont. “I don’t have the equipment. [Virtual labs] allow us to do laboratories that would take days and they’re done in 30 minutes.”
Dr. Karlheinz Trebesius, uses science simulations in his Bioengineering program at Munich University of Applied Sciences, where he has been able to grow his laboratory virtually. “With [virtual labs], you can perform experiments that cannot be performed in the lab because you do not have the equipment. So you can have a much broader spectrum of things that you can do,” Trebsesius explains.
Reimagining What’s Possible In a Hybrid Learning Future
By providing teachers access to libraries of science simulations, institutions are reimagining the limits of what they can offer students.
Virtual labs cost less than lab equipment. Virtual labs not only open up what types of equipment a university can afford, it enables each student to have their very own lab and to explore topics that would have otherwise required massive shifts in departmental budgets.
Practice Labs reduce costly breaks and waste. Acquiring lab equipment is just as critical as preserving it. Virtual practice labs help educators train critical lab skills outside of the lab and prepare students in advance, reducing the chances of wasted materials or costly breaks.
Pre-labs maximize critical time in the lab. Lab access can be tricky and expensive when institutions have hordes of students but limited facilities. Every hour counts in the lab, and virtual labs are providing educators with critical tools to close skills gaps beforehand, so that they make the most of the (expensive) time they have.
Beyond recreating real lab environments, simulations take students places that labs cannot, like the quantum realm or the surface of Mars. Virtual environments are about more than training skills, they help students visualize and interact with abstract theory in new and profound ways. Digital learning also opens new doors to student tracking, which means that educators can get precise insights into where students are struggling, and where they are needed most.
“Labster is cost effective, it’s easy to use, and you have a better outcome,” says Cord Carter, who teaches chemistry at Fisk University in North Carolina. Carter has not only expanded his course, the interactive format of virtual labs have sparked deeper engagement and excitement with his students. “It’s great when your students tell their friends, ‘hey, you should take this course.’”
About Labster: Labster offers interactive, 3D virtual science labs that bring science to life. Labster helps students visualize theory, access state-of-the-art lab environments, and take their learning beyond the classroom, from the quantum realm to the surface of Mars. Expand your curriculum, target learning needs, and foster content mastery to prepare the next generation of scientists.