Our Most Popular Microbiology Virtual Lab Simulations

Alyson Aiello

From bacterial structures to immunology, Labster offers 17 microbiology virtual lab simulations that easily integrate into your college and university curricula. Gain learning outcomes using Labster for pre-lab learning or as a lab replacement. Here’s an exploration of some of our most popular simulations along with summaries and insights written by the Labster scientific content creation team!

Why virtual labs for microbiology?

Simulations are among the best microbiology learning resources because they allow students to experience the finer elements of lab work in a low-risk, highly-scientific environment where they can:

  • Put their skills to the test

  • Increase confidence

  • Enhance in-lab performance

  • Improve material retention

When it comes to lab learning, Labster simulations provide a complete virtual lab experience with game-based simulations that engage students while allowing instructors to provide high-quality core and supplemental content along with quizzes, all graded automatically.

Get to know our microbiology virtual labs

Scientific Content Creators Catalina Cruañas Pániker, Abigail Robinson and Emmah Younis are three of the passionate creators at Labster who write content for our virtual simulations. They are guided by a mission to provide engaging UX, an intuitive user journey, and high scientific quality in every simulation. Here’s what they want to share about our most popular learning resources for microbiology.

Pasteurization and Sterilization Virtual Lab

In our Pasteurization and Sterilization virtual lab, students improve their understanding of pasteurization and sterilization as they help a farmer increase the shelf life of his homegrown peach juice. Tools include using a pH meter, aerobic plate count, High-Temperature Short-Time Treatment (HTST) pasteurization, and canning.

Explore more about our Pasteurization and Sterilization virtual lab on our product page.

Pasteurization and Sterilization Virtual Lab Image

Student appeal

This simulation grounds its theory in industry and research and has the potential to be much more interesting than learning from textbooks that can seem unrelated to real life. Students use their knowledge, gained from experiments and visiting the industry, to decide the best packaging and preserving solution for the farmer's peach juice. The great part is that there’s no wrong answer! Students can make up their own minds based on pros and cons, and get tailored feedback.

Instructor appeal

Our pasteurization and sterilization microbiology simulation instantly brings industry-based and lab-based learning into the classroom. The simulation not only allows the students to perform experiments that would take several months in real life, but also to go beyond the bounds of reality, diving inside the workings of an industrial pasteurization machine.

Our favorite thing

Often in class, taught topics can feel very removed from reality. By having a realistic research project to work on, which includes collaborating with industry as well as performing several stages of experiments, students get a view into how their learning has application beyond the classroom. The outcome in which the student uses their knowledge to optimize the preservation of peach juice while maintaining its flavor gives a more engaging goal than just recalling knowledge–they get to put it to use!

Introduction to Immunology Virtual Lab

Our Introduction to Immunology: Explore the immune system and save the world! simulation is highly relevant to students now that we’ve come to understand global health is everyone’s responsibility. This simulation helps students understand how immune cells and organs protect the body as students become a pathogen and invade the human body. Students use techniques like enzyme-linked immunoassay and serological investigation, and they learn a series of important objectives including mechanisms of immune invasion, features of innate and adaptive immune responses, importance of lymphocyte clonal selection and deletion processes, and diagnostic serology.

Explore more about our Introduction to Immunology virtual lab on our product page.

Introduction to Immunology Virtual Lab Image

Student appeal

Immunology is a complex and detailed topic. This simulation doesn’t shy away from this fact or talk down to students. It allows for regular exploration of detailed concepts, but it’s entirely up to the student if they do so. Here, the simulation uses an exploration task to allow them to learn more, which also makes the simulation accessible to students no matter their confidence level.

Likewise, this ability to “explore more” contributes to the overall tone of the simulation which feels individualistic and catered to the student. There are two learning activities that allow students to “choose their own path” as they attempt to infect the host body by being the pathogen. Students guide their learning and can replay the simulation to explore different scenarios, which is beneficial in the exploration of immunology.

Instructor appeal

Exploration and replay-ability are high on the list for instructors, too. However, in addition, this simulation uses technical language in a way that is consistent and is made clear to the student, which is a big draw. The text is bolded to highlight the keywords in the more information-dense sections, which is how this simulation addresses the complexity of the topic while still supporting the student through it. 

The simulation doesn’t fall into the trap of asking only recall questions about key terms but also has useful questions to encourage critical thinking at the start and at the end of the simulation. At the start, the student produces a hypothesis based on data they have interpreted, then they learn the theory behind immunology and test their hypothesis by running an immunoassay (ELISA) at the end. The simulation, therefore, strikes a healthy balance between teaching the topic and teaching scientific skills. Moreover, the way the simulation is ordered with separate rooms to focus on the topics (such as the body’s anatomy, innate immunity, adaptive immunity, and immunoassays) means this simulation could easily go in parallel with a series of course lectures.

Our favorite thing

There is a lot of humor in the simulation and you get the sense of how passionate about the topic we are as content creators. We all agree that we would have valued a resource like this in school. The combination of the exploration task, “choose your own path” learning activities, and casual tone helps leaning what might normally be dense material feel very relaxed and enjoyable, which sets this simulation far above just reading a textbook or watching (what would be many hours) of YouTube videos.

Bacterial Growth Curves: Experiment with Bacterial Growth Virtual Lab

Our Bacterial Growth Curves microbiology virtual lab simulation explores the fascinating rate of bacterial growth and asks student scientists to plot a growth curve. They’ll learn how growth rate is calculated based on a growth curve and learn to identify the different phases of bacterial growth, exploring aseptic techniques.

Explore more about Bacterial Growth Curves virtual simulation on our product page.

Bacterial Growth Curves Virtual Simulation Image

Student appeal

In this simulation, the student has the option to independently set up an experiment (without step-by-step guidance), and to repeat the experiment while varying temperature. In this way, the student is not just being taught to remember but they are creating and analyzing their own data to test their hypothesis. Different items on the workbench, collected from the fieldwork, are also fun to interact with.

Instructor appeal

There are various levels of guidance within the simulation (the student can set up their own experiment or be guided by Dr. One). This can help reduce the time the teacher spends helping students who are stuck on the simulation so they can focus on teaching, or have it be an independent activity. This simulation also allows many students to learn lab techniques that would require a lot of time and resources.

Our favorite thing

The student gets to make their own hypothesis about the effect of temperature on bacterial colony growth, and then test it. We also like that the simulation mentions the large quantity of plastic waste created during lab work. This highlights how important virtual labs are in training and to practicing procedures that minimize plastic waste!

Watch a video about our microbiology virtual lab simulations.

INSTRUCTOR'S FAVORITE: Gram Stain: How stains and counterstains work Virtual Lab

The Labster team enjoys bringing highest-quality science learning to classrooms across the globe, and it’s especially rewarding when we hear that instructors are just as excited about our content and learning opportunities. Our newly released Gram Stain: How stains and counterstains work short virtual lab simulation is growing in popularity every day among instructors and students.

In this simulation, students explore how a bacteria cell is stained during the gram staining process, how it retains color, and how to differentiate it under a microscope.

SJ Boulton, Higher Education Product Manager at Labster, is responsible for investigating and understanding the teaching and learning challenges educators face in order to develop content strategies that solve those challenges. The Gram Stain short virtual lab simulation is a favorite of hers, and she shares why she thinks it’s been so successful and well liked among instructors and students alike.

Explore more about our Gram Stain: How stains and counterstains work virtual lab simulation.

Gram Stain: How Stains and Counterstains Work Virtual Lab Image

Student appeal

There's a lot of remembering which way things go when learning about the gram stain. The colors can seem very arbitrary without being able to see the chemical mechanics at work. Students get to dive into the bacterial cells to see exactly what goes on to make gram positive cells purple and gram negative cells pink. This is also one of our short simulations, which makes it easy to accomplish.

Instructor appeal

“I wish I had been able to assign this sim to all my 'Yeah, but why?' students back in my teaching days,” Boulton says. “Some students need to dig deep into the underlying science to make information stick. Without guided navigation, students can end up in rabbit holes and get lost in heavy, irrelevant molecular detail. This simulation strikes a functional balance between visualizing underlying detail and encouraging critical thought.”

Dr. Eddy van Hunnik of Alamance Community College, a bioscience and biotechnology instructor, agrees. He says this simulation helped his students to understand the steps of gram staining before they had taken their in-person lab. “The simulation was useful for them to see the differences between gram positive and negative straight away when looking through the microscope.”

At Thomas Jefferson University, Dr. Manuela Tripepi, assistant professor of biology and course director for microbiology, names this simulation as her top pick as well because it gives students the look and feel of highest-quality lab equipment.

“It helps in all of the situations in which microscopes (in real life) are not updated or not useful for students. For example, I have decided to completely switch to the online simulation for the gram staining as our microscopes are in need of updating, and as I wait for funding to do so, my students can learn and obtain results using the simulation on Labster,” says Dr. Tripepi.

If you’re interested in providing microbiology virtual lab simulations for your students, it's easy and quick to get started. Sign up for a demo today!

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