How can I integrate the labs into my classroom or curriculum?
Instructors have implemented the virtual labs in their classrooms using four different learning strategies.
Lab Replacement or Augmentation. In many schools, laboratory facilities and resources are limited or non-existent. In this situation, the virtual labs are an ideal solution to provide students with realistic and effective laboratory opportunities. In our experience, however, we have learned that an augmented implementation is most effective for students where they participate in real lab experiences when possible, even if only rarely, but then augment or validate those experiences with the virtual labs. Keep in mind that the virtual labs provide a wide range of experiments that would never be available in any classroom environment.
Classroom Discussion. In situations where there is limited computer access in the classroom or at home, another effective implementation of the virtual labs is to do experiments, or even do the worksheets, together as a class. In this mode, the instructor would perform the experiment in front of the class, or invite students to perform certain steps, and then have the class as a whole predict outcomes, explain observations, and answer questions.
Homework. In environments where students have access to computers at home, worksheets can be assigned as homework. This can be an effective means to reinforce concepts taught in the class that day or to have students explore a topic first and then cement those ideas in class the next day. Using the virtual labs at home also produces a multiplier effect on learning and the use of scarce classroom time.
Group Work. Real science performed in university or commercial research labs is done in groups. Learning and discovery takes place when ideas are challenged and results are validated. Having students work in groups of 3 or 4 using classroom computers has proven to be a highly effective means for students to explore and learn in the Beyond Labz virtual environment.
How do I use the worksheets?
Ideally, teachers would create lab activities for their students that would be customized for their classrooms and curriculum, however in practice there is rarely time available to develop that kind of content. Thus, worksheets are included with each virtual lab product and can be found by clicking on the Worksheet tab in the Beyond Labz app. Currently, those worksheets are in a PDF format and when accessed open in the default browser. The difficulty becomes in how to collect the results and answers from the students. Historically, instructors have used the following methods: (1) Have students print the worksheets, fill in the data, graphs, and answers by hand, and then hand those in or take pictures and submit them back via email or a dropbox. (2) Have students record just the data and answers in an email. (3) Use the electronic lab book to record data and answers, save the lab book as an external file, and then submit those by email or a dropbox. This is especially effective for unknowns. (4) Have students record data, make graphs, and answer questions using a Google Doc or Google Sheet and submit those through their chosen Learning Management System.
Can I make my own experiments or lab activities?
The purpose of the virtual labs is to create an open-ended environment that allows students to do science without being artificially funneled down certain paths because of the limitations of the simulation engine. Beyond Labz has provided a set of lab activities or worksheets for each lab product and for different education levels. These worksheets cover a wide swath of typical curriculums, but they represent a small fraction of the myriad of different experiments and science that can be explored. The Beyond Labz virtual labs are truly an unlimited resource, and we hope teachers, instructors, and professors take advantage and develop their own experiments and laboratory experiences for their students.
Are they aligned to State / NGSS Standards?
The activities have been aligned, and you can find the alignments for Biology, Chemistry and Physics along with any recent community comments or additions, in the “Secondary” section.