This text outlines some of the features of the LabXchange simulations and provides some tips on how to interact with them to get the most personalized experience.
LabXchange simulations mirror the most important aspect of the process of science: the experiment that addresses a scientific question, framed by predictions and data analysis. Without access to the equipment needed to conduct real lab experiments, some learners are deprived of this foundational experience.
The lab simulations developed by LabXchange provide a realistic, yet forgiving digital environment where you can experience the scientific process without fear of making irreversible mistakes or depleting resources.
The simulation is framed within a lab notebook that models the planning and analysis of the experiment. Leveled language options support students with different levels of familiarity throughout the protocol.
Navigating the Lab Notebook
The lab notebook consists of seven different sections that model the sequence of events when conducting an experiment in an actual lab. You can move between these sections at any time during the experiment simply by clicking on the section title in the menu at the right. The lab notebook can be opened or closed by clicking on the hexagon at the top right of screen.
The Context section of the lab notebook provides an overview of the scientific background and introduces the purpose of the simulation. The Materials section familiarizes you with the materials and equipment used in the experimental simulation. The Predictions section allows you to think ahead and forecast the results of the experiment based on what has been presented in the context section. The Protocol guides you through the experiment in great detail to virtually conduct the experiment and generate data that are interpreted in the Results section. The Reflection section assesses the understanding of the conducted experiment with a few targeted questions. Finally, the Summary sections offers a few additional practical tips for future researchers.
Choosing a Level
Before beginning an experiment, you are prompted to choose a level. We recommend that those with little familiarity or experience with technique choose level 1, as this level provides the most language support and thorough instructions for completing each part of the experiment. Those with some familiarity or prior exposure to the technique may wish to select level 2, whereas those who are very comfortable with the technique and are interested in exploring new applications may wish to opt for level 3.
Performing the Experiment
On the right of the screen, a sequence of steps guides you through the experimental protocol. The numbered sections indicate a thematic grouping of steps that are working together to accomplish a specific goal (ex. “Create the Western blot sandwich”). The letters below indicate incremental and detailed actions that help you accomplish this goal. You can seamlessly navigate between the thematic segments using the chevrons at the top of the protocol section or the "Next" button at the bottom of this section. Once an action is performed, the corresponding step will be checked off. You don't have to follow the steps to reach the end of the simulation.
The simulation allows you to make mistakes and see how their actions lead to specific results. It's important to know that a check next to an action does not indicate that it was performed correctly, only that it was completed. You will discover whether you performed the technique correctly only at the very end of the experiment when interpreting the results – reflecting what happens in a real experiment.
However, if during the course of the experiment, you notice that they have made a mistake, the “Restart step” button in the lower left corner will undo the previous action and allow the step to be repeated.
Additional assistance is given in the form of hints, warnings, and pop-up questions. Hints and warnings make you aware of what to do or avoid while manipulating reagents and equipment in the lab. Pop-up questions guide you through necessary background knowledge or enrich the protocol detail.
Saving Your Progress
Progress through the simulation is preserved as learners navigate between sections in the lab notebook during the experiment. But, be aware that if the browser window is closed, progress will be lost.