Laboratory activities, especially in K-12 learning, play a substantial role in supporting scientific learning fields by enabling learners/students to obtain a range of practical skills through experiments and by allowing them to have a better understanding of the content.
While laboratory activities are generally expensive and time-consuming to conduct, virtual science laboratories are an excellent concept that can save money, time, and effort for both learners and institutions in K-12 education.
The main aim of virtual science labs is to offer quality research exposure and innovative pedagogy for learners to drive their scientific curiosity. The concept is primarily based on an online interactive medium with simulated experiments, videos, chat forums, pedagogy-based content, animations, gaming, webinars, quizzes, and more.
In this blog, we explore virtual science labs along with the several advantages they bring for K-12 learners.
What are Virtual Labs?
Virtual labs are one of the recent technological innovations among the modern educational methods that are largely driven by the rapid rise of digital learning. They can be defined as online (scientific) laboratories with remote access and are most suitable for the sciences, where experimentation is the centerpiece.
A typical virtual lab for K-12 learners can contain simple software like calculators and spreadsheets for data sampling. In contrast, other advanced virtual laboratories can have a range of futuristic tech for lifelike simulations and massive calculations.
Further, these virtual science labs can also range from stripped-down 2D video games to 3D simulations that aim to offer a more immersive learning experience for K-12 students. There are many benefits of online science experiments for K-12 students.
Some also offer students objective and step-by-step instructions, guiding them through the various technical steps for carrying out complex science procedures, whereas others are completely open-ended.
Benefits of Virtual Science Labs
There are several advantages of integrating online or virtual science labs into the K-12 curriculum. Some of these are listed below:
One of the main benefits of virtual labs is that they offer K-12 students access to cutting-edge technology when it comes to conducting science experiments.
Several vendors are offering virtual lab services, ensuring the best technology and high-quality equipment for students.
Virtual labs also ensure that K-12 learners students do not have to worry about using outdated and expensive lab equipment because, in most cases, schools cannot afford to replace their lab infrastructure frequently.
Based on the concept of online learning, virtual labs give learners the advantage of accessing the lab facilities at their convenience and when they learn best.
They also allow flexibility for teachers, who are no longer limited by using resources within a strict timeframe.
Further, since all virtual labs are online (either cloud-based or accessible via the web), they offer users unhindered access to the platform whenever they want. Students can also access their science lab on any device from any location at their convenience.
Another significant benefit of virtual science labs for K-12 learners is the affordability factor.
Although these remote virtual experiment labs are not free, they are far less expensive as compared to the real/physical ones.
Schools/institutions simply need one single platform to serve an entire institution without having to spend too many resources on its development. Besides, there are minimal or no maintenance costs/expenses that K-12 institutions have to worry about.
Higher Learner Engagement
Conducting experiments based on classroom lectures and presentations can be very monotonous and demotivating.
Virtual labs, on the contrary, allow teachers to capture learners’ attention by allowing them to test those procedures in a convenient virtual lab setup.
Further, students and schools also get the advantage of fast-paced communication as virtual labs display real-time results of experiments and research. This kind of seamless communication channel speeds up interactions between learners and instructors.
Another benefit of virtual science labs is that they allow students to conveniently redo experiments on the spot while they are still in a critical thinking mode.
Apart from this, schools/institutions can also record all the results, allowing better communication between teachers and students.
Therefore, in a virtual lab setup, the experiments go much beyond simply offering students one chance; rather, it gives students the option to analyze what went wrong immediately and give it another go.
Learning in a Safe Environment
When your students need to work in a high-risk business environment, virtual science labs can be used to prepare them for the task adequately.
They can test out various scientific experiments, perform virtual surgery, or take part in any other high-risk experiment/process, without injuring themselves or others and without causing any damage to expensive equipment.
Virtual labs thus allow students to make mistakes without worrying about the consequences until they stop making them altogether.
Better Knowledge Retention
When it comes to K-12 learning, students generally retain more knowledge by performing a certain procedure rather than simply reading about it. And that’s the whole essence of virtual labs.
They let your students engage with any experiment/process before encountering it in real life, thus allowing them to hone their skills effectively and retain all the necessary information.
Overall, with virtual science labs at your disposal, you can significantly improve your learners’ knowledge retention.
Apart from monitoring their progress and performance in real-time, you can also identify their strong and weak areas so you can work on bridging any knowledge gaps.
Virtual science laboratories are an excellent way to promote conceptual understanding in K-12 learners, especially of microscopic and abstract concepts.
They enhance the visual impact and experience during a science experiment and enable students to visualize what is taking place, which can significantly help student understanding.
As a K-12 institution, whether you have used virtual science labs for a long time or used them for the first time to replace practical work during the pandemic, this is the best time to reassess how virtual labs can be used to support hands-on practical work and become an integral part of your K-12 teaching practices.
At Hurix, we enable experiential learning with well-designed virtual labs and simulations that let K-12 students explore new concepts and retain knowledge to empower their imagination.