Flexible and Fun AP Biology: Kim Failor, Stanford Online High School

Stanford Online High School is an accredited, diploma-granting online high school. It brings together gifted, driven high school students worldwide to an online learning environment.

When AP Biology Instructor Kim Failor, PhD., first talked with Labster in June 2012, she wanted to find a way to bolster the laboratory component of her online college-level AP Biology course, which gathers around 40 students from across the globe in both synchronous class meetings and autonomous home assignments within a common online learning portal.

The pre-existing lab components left something to be desired

Up to this point, Failor had relied on at-home lab kits (which are a costly $300 per student per year) and online simulations. Students could complete dissection and yeast experiments with these kits and simulations, but she found that these labs were disengaging and too “click-through.”

She was looking for higher quality virtual labs that fit the curriculum. As the course complies with the Advanced Placement College Board standards, Failor was therefore looking to maximize the virtual lab components, especially in biotechnology, all the while making them fun.

Labster’s virtual biotechnology cases filled the gap in her curriculum

Over Skype, the Labster team demoed the labs, and Failor signed on to use the enzyme and insulin production cases with her students in the upcoming semester. She appreciated the ability to walk her students through the background concepts of the cases, like gene design and gel electrophoresis, while also giving them the autonomy to experiment and apply these concepts in a virtual environment.

One of the things that I've been enjoying about Labster as an instructor [is] the flexibility to direct students to different variables as suits my curriculum.

-Kim Failor, PhD., AP Biology Instructor

The cases are flexible and fun

During the week that the students completed the labs, Failor wrote us an email praising the flexibility of the Labster cases: “One of the things that I've been enjoying about Labster as an instructor [is] the flexibility to direct students to different variables as suits my curriculum.” As an assignment, she came up with the idea of having her students submit a lab report of their findings based on manipulating these different variables, which similarly allowed for flexibility and varied answers.

Students gave incredibly positive feedback about Labster after using the two cases. They agreed that they learned something new about biotech, that they would recommend Labster to other students, and that they would want to do more cases. For example, one student remarked that the simulations were “very fun and informative. Much more fun than a real lab. Labster is awesome.

Quite a few also named Labster as their favorite lab of the semester, for example, one student said: "the most memorable labs for me were the virtual labs. I liked these because it simulated a real lab, which is great, since we obviously can't have class in a traditional lab. I also enjoyed these because I felt I had more freedom to take risks, and try more than I could in a more traditional lab. Because I could just erase my work and start over, I was able to try a lot more than I could with limited materials, and thus learn more about the topic being covered."

We continue to work with Failor and her students with our newest cases in Labster 2.0, such as the Crime Scene Investigation lab, Animal Genetics lab and Enzyme Kinetics lab, and we value their great input and feedback. It’s a win-win!

This blog post was originally published in 2019.

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