Back to the New Normal: Face-to-Face Teaching with Labster

It’s been one year since schools closed. We are hopeful classes will be back on-campus soon. Educators are asking: How will face-to-face learning look when you return? Will your teaching go back to pre-pandemic normal? Or did the online experience forever change your teaching methods and tools? 

We recently surveyed over 900 educators in higher ed and high school to gain their insight about post-pandemic teaching with Labster. To find out what your peers think about their post-COVID “new normal” and their plans for teaching with virtual labs, download our survey results.  

Keep doing what works

Shifting to online teaching virtually overnight was painful. But you’re not alone if you’ve discovered that some virtual education technologies enhance the learning experience for your students. 

Professor Donald Wlodkowic with students in his lab

Dr. Donald Wlodkowic originally found Labster during the pandemic lockdown when searching for a replacement for wet-lab experiments. He later discovered that his students were engaged and learning with Labster and that he wanted to keep using it as a course supplement. 

“When the pandemic is over, I will definitely still be using Labster as a pre-study or on-campus post-practical training exercise,” said Wlodkowic, Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Toxicology in the School of Science at RMIT University.  

“In on-campus practicals, we have limited resources, limited ability to teach modern techniques because the cost would be too prohibitive,” Wlodkowic said. “With Labster, I can teach even first- and second-year students techniques such as flow cytometry, ELISA, and immunoblotting. Labster also has theory components that mesh together nicely with my lectures on cell biology or biochemistry.”

Reinforce In-Person Learning with Labster

Labster can help support the concepts and techniques you’re teaching. Amber Kool, Director of Curriculum and Instruction at Arizona College of Nursing, turned to Labster when searching for a wet-lab alternative during the pandemic. After a year, she realized that Labster is “not a replacement for anything,” she said. “This is one more tool in your toolbox to help students understand.” 

“If we’re going back to experiential learning and exposing them to an idea, then reinforcing that idea in another manner is just going to integrate it into their knowledge bank,” said Kool.  She described how she plans to combine virtual labs and other digital learning tools with in-person teaching. “So maybe we do a virtual lab, have an assigned reading, followed by a video, followed by their faculty member clarifying a concept, ” she said. 

Do More Coaching and Mentoring 

When your students start by playing a simulation first, you can begin synchronous class time with investigative questions that challenge them to explore and apply what they didn’t understand. 

“You can introduce it to them in the virtual lab, go over it, and then reinforce it once you’re in the in-person lab. Now we can really focus on ‘did you get that skill right? Did you do something that we need to remediate?’ That’s where they get the practice and the skill. OK, now let’s start diving into ‘Why did you do that?’”

“The faculty member becomes more of a coach, they become more of a guide, and the accountability for the learning goes back on the student,” Kool said.

Give Your Students Time to Reflect

student looking at laptop

A traditional lab experience is time-limited. Most labs need to fit into a 3-hour university slot or a 45-50 minute class period in high school. In contrast, students can complete most Labster simulations in less than an hour (often in 10-20 minutes). 

Choosing a flipped classroom approach, you can use Labster as an opportunity for students to interact with the experiment and use your in-class time together as an opportunity for students to engage with you. During your synchronous time, you can reinforce or remediate what your students still have questions about or what they may be struggling with.

Help Students Visualize Science & Overcome Knowledge Gaps

Each student begins a new course with a series of knowledge gaps that have accumulated throughout their scholastic career. Each instructor begins a new course not knowing which gaps a student has. Labster helps to fill in and bridge those gaps. 

Labster visualizations help students break through threshold concepts and have their own “lightbulb moments.” Labster helps students visualize very abstract concepts in an interactive 3D environment. Animations show hard-to-see and invisible phenomena in a way that clarifies and explains what’s going on. 

Amber Kool collected data on how Labster impacts her students’ engagement and learning. “I can give you direct quotes from student evals that say that they love the virtual labs, they love the interaction, they love how informative they are,” she said. 

Give Yourself More Data About Student Performance

Instructors are able to view students’ results via the Labster teacher dashboard within their LMS.  Using the data in the dashboard, instructors see which questions were missed, how many attempts were made, and how long students played. Feedback from Labster creates an opportunity for instructors to reinforce the areas that students are struggling with.  

Give Students Instant Feedback

students playing Labster in a face-to-face lab classroom

Providing feedback improves learning outcomes. Students know instantly whether they have correctly answered an embedded quiz question in Labster because it does automatic grading. They can re-attempt the question after reviewing the Labster theory pages or other course materials. Alternatively, students can reach out directly to you for more help.

Let Your Students Learn from Their Mistakes (Safely)

Before they are ready to try it in a real laboratory, students can get their hands onto equipment and into experiments in the safety of Labster’s virtual lab. 

students can learn from their mistakes when they play Labster

“We use a Labster simulation for the Kjeldahl technique. It’s a really nasty technique and we don’t let students do it hands-on,” said Dr. Therese Uniacke-Lowe of the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences at University College Cork. “So we’ll show them the instrumentation, but they’ll actually learn how to use it effectively using the simulation.”

Labster’s aim is that when your students stand in front of the physical lab bench and pick up a pipette, they understand what they are being asked to do and why the experiment is important, and are also conscious of risks and safety practices. 

Make Sure Your Labs Are Accessible and Inclusive

Labster can help provide on-site instructors with an inclusive and accessible lab experience for all students, including students with disabilities who often face obstacles when working in a physical lab. Many of our simulations are fully playable using keyboard navigation and screen-reader, and fully accessible for students with color blindness. You can view our growing list of WCAG 2.0 Level AA accessible virtual labs at https://www.labster.com/accessibility/

Final Thoughts

Many instructors tell us that using Labster in combination with in-person teaching methods produces the best student learning outcomes.  Peer-reviewed research supports their experiences, finding that students with both a teacher and Labster score 101% higher on assessments. If you’d like to find out more about how your peers are integrating Labster with in-person learning as we transition back to teaching face-to-face, go ahead and get in touch with us.

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We Can Make Virtual Labs Work for You

“The virtual labs have proven to stimulate students' natural curiosity, knowledge retention and outcomes.”
Dr. Brian Harfe
University of Florida

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