A virtual lab is a teaching and learning environment that is aimed at developing students’ laboratory skills without actually having to go to visit a laboratory. The experiments that are to be conducted are conducted virtually over the internet or using software designed specifically for this purpose. It is one of the most popular emerging eLearning tools and allows the student to conduct various experiments without having the constraints of place or time, in stark contrast to the constraints of real labs. Virtual labs incorporate several pedagogical techniques that help learners better understand what they study in theory. These techniques include the concepts of:
- Visual learning
- Active learning
- Recall-based learning
They also offer students access to a lab experience that does not that will allow them to perform experiments physically and practice their skills in an interactive risk-free learning environment.
Categories of Virtual Laboratories
Virtual laboratories are not homogenous and largely differ in composition, application, and purpose. In general, a virtual lab in modern academia can be divided into the below categories
These are platforms that simulate physical labs in the virtual space on screens. The online experience allows the students the same facilities as in the case of a physical lab with the only difference being that the interaction has been limited to a two-dimensional environment.
Simulations offer students the opportunity to explore a reality different from a remote location.
VR or virtual reality classes help students get a more immersive experience than simulators.
Benefits of Using Virtual Labs
There are several reasons why virtual labs are the need of the hour, a few of which are listed below:
Students can now learn concepts through an immersive visual experience that can make the whole learning process more impactful as well as simpler for students to understand. Furthermore, it offers the synchronization required between explaining the practical applications and theoretical ideas.
Virtual labs offer students of all ages easy access to cutting-edge technology for the purpose of experimentation. Tools like Simulations and Virtual Microscopes provide futuristic solutions to science students. Learners don’t have to settle for outdated equipment with a virtual lab because that equipment’s software can be built however expensive the actual cost is.
Engages Students Immensely
Watching presentations and listening to lectures about experiments can become disinteresting for students. Virtual labs help instructors capture the attention of learners by helping them to test all those procedures in an online setup easily. Students can conduct the same experiment several times to make sure that they completely understand the concept.
Offers Instant Feedback
A major advantage of virtual labs is that it helps students to recreate the experiments. Unlike in the case of a traditional lab, experiments no longer have a single chance option in virtual labs. Students can analyze their mistakes, find out what went wrong, and try the experiment once again. Since all the experiment results are recorded, keeping track of communication between students and teachers becomes more efficient.
Allows Flexibility in the Learning Process
One of the common benefits of online learning, in general, 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 lab experiments at any time and place according to their convenience. Since all virtual labs are either accessible via the internet or cloud-based, they offer students unrestricted access to the platform whenever they desire. Students can also access the laboratory on any device from any location, making them indispensable for contactless learning.
Personal Immersive Experience
Unlike in the case of a physical lab, the experience of a student who attends virtual labs is one that is personal. Each person’s individual experience is unique and is characterized by their learning curve. This allows them to learn the laboratory setup and experiment with a personal touch.
Better Student Safety
Students can try various kinds of experiments in virtual labs free of the risk of injuring themselves or damaging the equipment. They can also test several scenarios, compare them, and determine which one is the most effective without actually doing it in real life. Designed using the latest technology, virtual labs help protect students from the dangers associated with conducting dangerous laboratory experiments. In addition, it also eliminates the requirement to deal with toxic/radioactive chemicals and other hazards and provides an effective way to avoid laboratory accidents.
Affordable as Compared to Physical Labs
Online or virtual labs are far less expensive compared to traditional ones. One single lab platform can help an entire school or institution without them having to spend a massive amount of resources on the equipment, preservation, and maintenance of the same. development.
With the ever-changing educational landscape, educators are always exploring new ways to improve their online learning processes. Virtual labs are amazing digital resources that help save costs as well as improve student productivity. They also allow students to take part in school work from any location and combine the ease and convenience of use offered by the modern technology seamlessly. While virtual labs are still in need of some improvements to identically reproduce the experience of physical laboratories, it won’t be wrong to say that they are definitely not going anywhere anytime soon.