Over the last few years, the education industry has witnessed a significant transformation in terms of learning methods and techniques, making it imperative for educational institutions to keep up the pace and prepare students adequately.
One of the ways technology has benefited K-12 education in particular, is the emergence of virtual labs. In this blog, we explore the concept of virtual labs in more detail, along with the benefits of using a virtual lab in K-12 education.
What are virtual labs?
Virtual lab refers to a virtual teaching and learning environment aimed at developing students’ laboratory skills. As one of the most important eLearning tools, they allow the student to conduct various experiments without any constraints to place or time, in contrast to the constraints of real labs.
Virtual labs incorporate various pedagogical techniques that help learners to better understand the theoretical information. These techniques include visual learning, active learning, recall-based learning, gamification & storytelling.
They also offer students access to a realistic lab experience that will allow them to perform experiments and practice their skills in a risk-free and interactive learning environment.
Categories of virtual laboratories
Virtual laboratories are not homogenous, and they largely differ in their purpose, composition, and application.
In general, a virtual lab in modern academia can be divided into the below categories-
- Laboratories– These are the platforms that simulate physical labs on screens. The online experience offers the students the same facilities as in the physical lab, with the only difference of the interaction being limited to a 2D environment
- Simulations– Simulations offer students an opportunity to explore a different reality from a remote location
- VR spaces– VR or virtual reality classes offer a more immersive experience than simulators
Benefits of using virtual labs in K-12 education
1. Top-notch equipment
Virtual labs offer K-12 students with easy access to cutting-edge technology for experimentation. Tools such as Simulations and Virtual Microscopes provide futuristic solutions to science students.
Learners do not have to settle on outdated equipment with a virtual lab in place and can instead work with AI-powered laboratories and modern teaching techniques. They can easily compete with peers using advanced technological solutions.
Further, these labs can help the teacher cover various aspects of the course curriculum with practical applications. It allows students to understand the concepts better, which is otherwise difficult to offer with limited equipment and funding.
2. Serves as a visual aid to teach complex concepts
Using virtual labs, teachers can easily explain complex theoretical concepts to students through a visual, immersive experience that can make it simpler for students to understand.
Moreover, it provides the synchronization needed between explaining the theoretical ideas and practical application.
3. Ensures student safety
Students can try various kinds of experiments in a virtual laboratory without the risk of injuring themselves or damaging equipment. They can also test multiple scenarios, compare, and determine which one is the most effective without trying them in real life.
Designed with the latest technology, virtual labs protect students from the dangers they face while conducting some dangerous laboratory experiments. Further, it also eliminates the need to deal with toxic/radioactive chemicals and other similar hazards and offers an effective way to avoid laboratory accidents.
4. Engages learners
Listening to lectures and watching presentations about experiments can eventually become disinteresting for students. Virtual labs allow the instructors to capture learners’ attention by allowing them to test all those procedures in an online setup easily.
Students can conduct the same experiment multiple times to ensure they completely understand the concept.
5. Offers instant feedback
Another advantage of virtual labs is that it allows students to redo the experiments. Unlike the traditional lab setup, in virtual labs, experiments no longer have a single chance option. Students can go over their mistakes, analyze what went wrong and give it another shot immediately.
Since all the experiment results are recorded, maintaining communication between teachers and students becomes more efficient.
6. Allows learning flexibility
One of the most common benefits of online learning is that students can learn at their own time and pace. The same applies to virtual laboratories also. It helps students study, prepare and perform laboratory experiments at any time and place as per their convenience.
Since all virtual labs are cloud-based or accessible via the web, they offer students unhindered access to the platform whenever they want. Students can also access the laboratory on any device from any location, making them indispensable for contactless learning.
7. Affordable alternative to physical labs
Online or virtual labs are far less expensive as compared to the real ones. One single lab platform can serve an entire school or institution without spending a massive amount of resources on its development. Besides, schools also don’t need to worry much about maintenance costs and other similar expenses.
With the changing educational landscape, K-12 educators are constantly exploring innovative ways to fine-tune their online learning processes.
Virtual labs are excellent digital resources that help to save costs and enhance student productivity manifolds. Moreover, they allow students to take part in school work from any location and seamlessly combine the convenience and ease of use offered by contemporary technology. While virtual labs still need some improvements to replicate the physical laboratories, it won’t be wrong to say that they are here to stay.
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