Introductory and general education STEM courses can be challenging for non‐science majors, who often view science as a static body of facts. Laboratory experiences are intended to involve students in science, but frequently, due to a variety of resource, safety, and support constraints, the wet lab can become a “cook‐book” activity. Lack of engagement and opportunity for creativity may be reasons why some students perform poorly in these courses. One of the advantages of virtual labs is that they provide a risk‐free environment for students to explore scientific concepts in an inquiry‐based fashion. Using virtual labs, students can formulate hypotheses and carry out experiments where “mistakes” can be made, and the knowledge gained from their attempts can be used to modify experiments toward the desired outcome. This mode of learning by doing is one of the main reasons virtual labs have been designed for use in science courses. Virtual labs can also provide active learning opportunities for general education students to achieve an understanding and appreciation of scientific principles and the scientific method. See this research argument on the implementation of Virtual Lab in STEM disciplines by Dr. Moustapha Diack from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In addition, you can view a Virtual Labs presentation (48 minutes) by Dr. Robert Desharnais of CSU Los Angeles.
Virtual Labs can be integrated with in-class lectures and, when used with a hybrid-flipped lab model, with two tracks of online and in-person labs alternating every week, have the potential to increase student learning and positive attitudes towards science while simultaneously reducing bottlenecks. Once labs are online, faculty and students are freed from the equipment and scheduling constraints of the brick-and-mortar laboratory.
- Are you looking for adopting a virtual lab for your STEM course? We suggest you visit the Virtual Labs Teaching Commons site.
- You want to learn more about the ways faculty are integrating virtual laboratory in STEM disciplines? Check the Virtual Labs ePortfolios that have been developed by CSU faculty