Community colleges across the country have been providing online instruction for decades, which places them ahead of the curve selecting and implementing the right digital tools to achieve desired learning outcomes within a remote learning environment. At Wenatchee Valley College in Washington State, Adjunct Instructor Kyle Hammon relies on Labster to provide virtual lab experiences and online course materials for more than 75 major and non-major asynchronous biology students per semester. For Hammon, Labster is an essential tool for online instruction that engages digital native students with gamification and encourages them to take ownership of their learning thus improving collegiate study skills.
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"The question always is, ‘Can we demonstrate that the students are meeting course outcomes?’ Check! We can do that.”
Kyle Hammon is an Adjunct Instructor at Wenatchee Valley College where he teaches asynchronous Biology courses at the 100 and 200 levels to non- major, major and pre-nursing students. Hammon’s teaching career began in Eugene, Oregon, in 1993 at Lane Community College as a biology instructor. Between 2001 and 2020, he held supervisory roles at Lane and Lower Columbia College in Longview, Washington, where he was first introduced to Labster. In fall 2020, he returned to teaching and incorporated Labster simulations based on their success at Lower Columbia.
Labster simulations used
The following simulations are used in Hammon’s biology courses:
• Action Potential Lab: Experiment with a Squid Neuron
• Bioinformatics: An Introduction
• Fermentation: Optimize Bio-ethanol Production
• Homeostatic Control: How Does the Human Body Keep Itself in Balance?
• Introductory Lab
• Lab Safety
• Meiosis: Understand How Traits are Inherited
• Mendelian Inheritance
• Muscle Tissues
• Signal Transduction
• Skeletal Muscle: Learn About the Muscles We Use to Walk and Run
• Smooth Muscle: Learn How Your Gut Contracts
Technology has always been an important part of online instruction for Hammon, who has witnessed its evolution over the past 20 years. His goal remains the same: to engage students, and focus on the development of critical thinking and conceptual understanding of a discipline’s core themes. Labster helps him meet those goals and simplifies course planning. “I’m not an instructional designer and I appreciate the structure, formality and sequencing that’s in the product. There are so many things that were previously [Adobe] Flash-based, that are now inaccessible,” Hammon says. “Labster filled that need.”
WVC students give Labster high marks in course surveys, describing simulations and materials as useful, fun and engaging. Hammon says the trial-and-error aspect of Labster simulations, which he bakes into his curriculum, make it possible for students to achieve mastery and retain knowledge. Gamification elements reliably engage digital native students and motivate them to connect with other course materials. For all students, simulations provide a lab experience that would not otherwise be possible.
Attracting and advancing digital native students
Hammon’s students choose Labster lab simulations first when starting self-guided work. Gamification elements like immersion, action language, conflict resolution and user control are familiar and therefore appealing to digital native students. Simulations pique student interest, tap into critical thinking and facilitate the drive for deeper learning. For Hammon, allowing students to complete lab simulations as often as they need to has also led to greater knowledge retention and student confidence.
He has been especially impressed by the high school students taking his courses as part of Washington State’s dual-enrollment Running Start program. These students immediately adopt the software with competency. Hammon also credits simulations with helping these students mature into collegiate study habits in a short period of time.
Using Labster in the future
Hammon will continue to use Labster simulations in his asynchronous and synchronous courses, as well as Labster materials like lab manuals, which help “set the context of theory and what will be happening during the simulation.” Hammon implemented simulations from the Labster Anatomy and Physiology packages with his 200-level pre-nursing students at Wenatchee Valley College. “In the context of at-home labs for online instruction, I happily recommend that others consider this software,” he says.
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