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Experiments and other hands-on activities are crucial in STEM education because they help students better relate to and comprehend the relevance of course material. Due to this, hands-on activities in the lab are an integral element of the educational experience for students.
Unfortunately, many modern schools operate almost entirely online, leaving educators with the challenge of duplicating this vital experience from afar. But with the advancement of new tech like AI in education, soon this challenge will be overcome. In this blog, however, we will explain how educators may set up remote access for students to conduct virtual experiments.
Understanding The Use of Virtual Labs
The rapid growth of digital learning has led to several exciting new developments in the field of education, including the creation of virtual science labs. They are best suited to the natural sciences, which place a premium on experimentation and can be considered remote, online (scientific) laboratories.
In a typical online learning environment for students in grades K-12, you could find data sampling tools like a calculator or a spreadsheet. Yet, other state-of-the-art virtual labs may use various cutting-edge technologies to create more realistic simulations and perform complex computations.
These online scientific classrooms may be as simple as 2D video games or as complex as 3D simulations to provide a more immersive learning environment for students in grades K-12. Science experiments that may be done online are a great resource for elementary, middle, and high school students.
Some provide concrete, detailed guidance to pupils while they carry out sophisticated scientific processes, while others leave everything up to their interpretation.
How To Help Students Conduct Experiments In Virtual Labs?
There are three methods in which teachers might engage students in online and distant virtual experiments. Among them are –
- Synchronous approach – A synchronous approach is one in which you and your students experiment simultaneously.
- Asynchronous approach — You and your students conduct the experiments simultaneously using the asynchronous technique.
- Virtual laboratories and simulations — Electronic laboratories and computer-based simulations – They may be synchronous, asynchronous, or a hybrid of these modes.
Based on these categories, below are some suggestions for facilitating remote experimentation by students:
1. Demonstrations in a video format
Since so many instructional videos are available, YouTube is a great resource for children in various grades. These videos provide a variety of scientific experiments on important themes, with detailed explanations, reflective questions, and references for further reading and viewing.
When students have had enough time to perfect a certain skill, they might be tasked with locating the most effective example of that skill online to share it with the rest of the group.
You might also upload a video of yourself experimenting with the online class. Next, have them use what they’ve learned in class to explain the outcomes they saw.
2. The provision of online simulations
The use of interactive simulations for physics, chemistry, biology, and even mathematics is another technique to enable students to undertake virtual experiments in a distant setting. These exercises aim to let students explore and discover things for themselves, allowing them to learn at their own speed. The game-like setting has increased pupils’ interest in and retention of material.
For instance, in a biology simulation, students use optical tweezers to stretch a strand of DNA, simulating the actual experiment for a fraction of the expense of purchasing and maintaining the expensive equipment needed for the real thing.
3. Putting together take-home kits for online experiments
Another great option to assist children in virtual experiments is to assemble easy, safe science lab kits that students may pick up and finish at home. Without the need for electronic scales or similar instruments that the school couldn’t allow out of the classroom, the best science lab kits may be constructed using various basic and home-safe items. For instance, a simple take-home science kit regarding iron oxidation may include salt, hydrogen peroxide, and non-galvanized nails/iron filings.
Kits like this may be taken home to keep youngsters interested in science even after school is out.
4. Student-led experiments
Students may also be encouraged to conduct virtual experiments by being assigned to groups and asked to brainstorm real-world applications of the previously studied material.
To begin, have them list the lab supplies they anticipate being needed. After receiving a list of potential resources, they may use their imagination to develop novel solutions to problems.
After that, choose the top two or three experiments to do in a live online session and take a vote of the students to determine which one they want to witness.
Provide a full rundown of the process and describe your actions at each stage. Be careful to stop before each stage of the virtual experiment so that students may reflect on the previous step’s results and make predictions for the next stage.
5. Show and explain
You may also play the scientific show-and-tell game with elementary and middle school students. Asking students to back up their responses by demonstrating the idea using whatever resources they have at home is a simple but powerful strategy.
Here are some simple experiment suggestions that may be carried out using items found around the house:
- Experiment on Earth research using floss and colored modeling clay.
- Experiment with a lava bottle: a tall and thin plastic container, antacid pills, colorant, plus vegetable oil.
- Experiments with paper parachutes using string, napkins, feathers, pens, scissors, toys, and pebbles.
6. Virtual laboratories
A virtual lab is an online platform where students may do experiments already designed for them. These virtual laboratories have the potential to be among the most useful e-learning resources because they free students from the limitations of traditional labs in terms of space, time, safety, and other resources.
Visual learning, active learning, recall-based learning, gamification, and storytelling are only a few established pedagogical strategies used in virtual laboratories to improve students’ grasp of theoretical material.
Keep in mind that the goal of a virtual lab is to improve non-motor abilities such as recalling steps and safeguards, writing up experiments, and viewing results. No need to go to great lengths or spend much money on a virtual lab that performs its job well. Finding a development partner that can help virtual laboratories match their goals and interactions with attainable results is essential.
Virtual experiments and demonstrations for kids are becoming possible but are frequently disregarded. The potential exists to expand laboratory and experiential learning outside the classroom thanks to the digitalization of the curriculum. Online education allows students to apply what they learn in the real world.
Remember that the ultimate aim is not to replace or imitate traditional classroom instruction but to create alternative means of accomplishing goals and providing students with the necessary resources to further their education.