Virtual Labs: Core to Blended Learning Environment

(Getty Images)

A virtual or simulated lab is part of the experience of incorporating a virtual learning environment (VLE) into today’s blended learning, a core component of Education 3.0. A simulated lab is particularly necessary as a tool for teaching courses in Life Sciences and Biomedical Engineering.

A virtual lab is, indeed, a safe way where students can run experiments, blow up the lab, and learn something out of it that will prevent them from accidentally doing the same in the real world.

Contrary to what many may think, virtual labs are not a recent development. Virtual labs have been around in one way or another since the early days of Apple computers, back in the 1980s.

Unsurprisingly, students strongly prefer immersive Virtual Reality. Simulations are useful motivators and grab students’ attention easily. Through a simulation, they can play around with things that are often out of reach, or out of their control.

Complex phenomena such as chemical reactions and studying internal organs in detail through virtual simulations can play a paramount role in medical students’ education. A virtual lab has the potential to cut costs and eliminate waste with a high potential of efficiency in learning.

Virtual learning environments and virtual labs not only improve the quality of science education but also eliminate the geographical distance problem, allowing students to participate in lab experiments from anywhere in the world. This becomes an advantage when enrolling international students.

Some virtual lab solutions available to higher education include:

  • Labster Virtual Science Labs

According to Labster, research shows that students learn twice as much when traditional lectures are supplemented by virtual labs. Labster says it is the equivalent of 101 percent increase in learning effectiveness, which doubles the instructor’s impact with the same amount of time spent.

Labster’s Co-Founder Michael Bodekaer noted during his TEDxCERN Talk back in 2016, when he demoed the technology that he thought was going to revolutionize science education, how students can perform dangerous experiments in the virtual lab, some of which are not allowed in real-world labs such as learning about Salmonella bacteria, which is a topic many labs cannot allow due to safety reasons.

  • Nextech AR Solutions

Nextech for higher education offers visual training in an Augmented Reality (AR) environment, taking any lab course to the next-level. The virtual lab uses 3D simulations, AR, and holograms for a fully immersive, risk-free, collaborative STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) learning experience.

There is no certainty that virtual labs will fully replace real bench work in scientific training in every single university, or, at least not completely in the next few years.

What matters today, however, is that highly immersive virtual labs can be used to improve all sorts of learning outcomes. In addition, for those who have limited or no access to real labs, a virtual lab becomes paramount, if not essential.

Virtual labs empower the next-generation of scientists who will change the world.  Most certainly, universities will be proud to be part of the future by providing their students with state-of-the-art virtual labs.