Date Published: April 11, 2019
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Author(s): Guido Makransky, Richard E. Mayer, Nicola Veitch, Michelle Hood, Karl Bang Christensen, Helen Gadegaard, Benjamin Motz.
The use of virtual laboratories is growing as companies and educational institutions try to expand their reach, cut costs, increase student understanding, and provide more accessible hands on training for future scientists. Many new higher education initiatives outsource lab activities so students now perform them online in a virtual environment rather than in a classroom setting, thereby saving time and money while increasing accessibility. In this paper we explored whether the learning and motivational outcomes of interacting with a desktop virtual reality (VR) science lab simulation on the internet at home are equivalent to interacting with the same simulation in class with teacher supervision. A sample of 112 (76 female) university biology students participated in a between-subjects experimental design, in which participants learned at home or in class from the same virtual laboratory simulation on the topic of microbiology. The home and classroom groups did not differ significantly on post-test learning outcome scores, or on self-report measures of intrinsic motivation or self-efficacy. Furthermore, these conclusions remained after accounting for prior knowledge or goal orientation. In conclusion, the results indicate that virtual simulations are learning activities that students can engage in just as effectively outside of the classroom environment.
The use of simulated labs is booming as companies and educational institutions try to expand their reach, cut costs, increase student understanding, and provide more accessible hands on training for future scientists . Furthermore, there is a strong trend to move educational activities online with the immergence of educational formats such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) [2,3], providing a number of advantages such as flexibility and the ability to access a large number of students. In 2002 a total of 1,602,970 university students took at least one course online. By 2011 6,714,792 students took one or more online classes, representing an increase 318.9% . This trend is continuously increasing and Arizona State University (ASU) in collaboration with Google Daydream and the educational technology company Labster have recently launched a fully online biology degree course that uses simulations instead of physical lab activities . The course includes 30 three-dimensional lab simulations that are used by students online rather than at the university. Many universities in the US and Europe are following this trend, and as of October 2018, there were 16 universities that were in the process of planning a fully online virtual biology degree with Labster .
This research was approved by The University of Glasgow’s College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences Ethics Committee.