Laboratory activities play a significant role in supporting scientific learning. Experimental activities allow students to gain practical knowledge and skills, enabling them to get an in-depth understanding of the content. But, having a dedicated science laboratory with cutting-edge equipment and facilities is quite expensive and difficult to maintain.
In such cases, virtual lab simulations can be an excellent alternative — these are safe, efficient, and cost-effective measures to provide students with an interactive lab environment. Virtual lab simulations are designed to make science subjects more engaging, immersive and enjoyable. This virtual learning environment allows students to conduct experiments individually without the fear of accidents and repeat the experiments multiple times if needed.
What is a virtual lab?
A virtual laboratory is a simulated learning environment that allows students to interact with experimental apparatus and conduct laboratory experiments via a computer interface. With the simulation of experiments, students can interact with programmed and remote-controlled lab equipment, just like handling real apparatus. They can get the experience of using real apparatus online without stepping into a physical science lab.
Virtual lab simulations allow students to try out different lab techniques and become familiar with advanced equipment that might otherwise be inaccessible due to high costs. Virtual lab simulations provide opportunities for students to access and explore advanced science education through experiments without any risk of accidents.
Why should educational institutions leverage virtual lab simulations?
1. Provides access to top-notch lab equipment
Virtual lab simulations are effective and futuristic learning solutions for science students. Simulation of real labs provides them access to cutting-edge lab instruments instead of outdated equipment available in most institutes.
Most of the virtual laboratories are Artificial Intelligence-powered modern learning tools. These learning tools are perfect for teaching students the techniques of experiments, step-by-step procedures, and necessary safety measures, so that they are ready to conduct real-life lab experiments in the future.
2. Helps to explain complex concepts to students
Teachers can easily explain a complex theoretical concept or complex methodology using virtual lab simulations. Students also get hands-on experience in conducting experiments in a controlled environment. With the audio-visual, immersive experience, students can get a much better understanding of real instruments, their components, and their operational interface.
3. Engages learners
Virtual labs are much more interesting and engaging for students than theory classes (both online and offline) or watching videos or presentations about experiments. The interactive simulated environment allows teachers to capture students’ attention by allowing them to virtually participate in experiments online. Students can even perform the same experiment several times to understand a specific concept.
4. Provides unlimited lab access
With the current remote learning system, students remain geographically distributed and are unable to attend classes at their institutes. But the good news is that virtual labs allow all remote students to practice their experiments online. Unlike a physical lab, where students had fixed class time to access the laboratory and perform experiments; a virtual lab can be accessed for as long as they want.
5. Affordable alternative to physical labs
Setting up virtual lab simulations is way more affordable than real ones, and this is also a one-time investment. There are no recurring expenses for resources and lab maintenance. Even one single lab platform is enough to serve an entire school or institution without spending a huge amount on its development. Besides, schools don’t have to allocate a place or develop buildings like in the case of real laboratories, which helps save a lot of money.
How can students learn better with virtual lab simulations?
1. Refresh students’ knowledge before learning a new concept
With virtual labs, students can get enough scope to refresh their learning from time to time and keep their knowledge updated. After gaining theoretical knowledge, students can conduct virtual experiments to enhance their understanding.
2. Allows learning flexibility
As virtual lab simulations offer remote learning facilities, students can take up the classes at their own time and pace. Virtual laboratories help students to perform their experiments at any time and even multiple times for better understanding. Students can even attend their virtual labs from any place at their convenience. Cloud-based virtual labs can be accessed from any device with an internet connection, which facilitates contactless remote learning.
3. Allows multiple trials without any restriction
Unlike a traditional lab setup, in virtual labs, students get the redo option and can conduct the same experiment multiple times. Thanks to this feature, students can go over their mistakes, find out and understand where they went wrong, and give it another shot immediately.
4. Reduces hazards and risk
As virtual labs offer interactive screen experiments, students don’t need to be stressed about the hazardous results when something goes wrong. Virtual lab simulations allow students to enjoy performing experiments in a safe environment and get computerized results. Even complex chemistry experiments can be conducted without any difficulty or hazards.
To match the changing learning landscape, K-12 institutes are looking for innovative ways to improve the online learning experience and make it more engaging and effective. In this regard, virtual lab simulations are one of the top technological advancements that can revolutionize online learning. These are excellent digital resources that help students to learn and love science in a cost-efficient way.
Moreover, virtual lab simulations allow students to participate in science experiments from anywhere and anytime, thereby combining the convenience and flexibility factors. Since the pandemic is not over yet and holding regular classes is not possible, virtual lab simulations can be the best option to make science easy for students by replicating physical laboratories online.
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