The LabXchange virtual lab protocol simulations are designed to give users the opportunity to experience the scientific process by practicing new (or familiar) techniques. Within the simulation, all of the actions that a learner completes are tracked. After completing the protocol, the learner receives a resulting outcome.
Rather than the rote memorization of a sequence of steps, our lab simulations encourage self-paced exploration and experimentation. Learners select a level before they start, which dictates the amount of text-based prompts they will receive. Those with the least familiarity or experience with the technique can choose level 1 to receive more detailed instruction. Learners who feel that they have some familiarity select level 2. And learners who feel most confident with the technique of the simulation can opt for level 3. The technique and experimental process they are practicing in the simulation are the same regardless of level.
This allows lab simulations to be used flexibly, to challenge a learner’s own question or to test the thresholds of particular steps. For example, a learner can deviate from the given protocol to test whether the enzyme in the protocol functions at a higher or lower temperature. Or a learner could test how the direction of the gel in the gel box impacts how the dyes travel in the gel.
The lab simulations are built in such a way that simply clicking through will not produce results. If a learner doesn’t engage with the lab simulation, a result will not be auto-populated and the results section will remain blank. However, a learner’s results section may also be blank if they omitted or changed important steps in the protocol. They may have genuinely engaged with the protocol, but generated a no-outcome result. This is intended to allow learners to discover how these techniques work through exploration and iteration.
Finally, please keep in mind that tracking progress in simulations is not intended to be an assessment of student understanding, but instead, a way to track student engagement with assigned content. For this reason, learners will receive a designation of complete in the progress tab simply by accessing the simulation.
There are many ways to assess student understanding in the lab simulations:
- You can build custom questions based on the learning outcomes you would like to emphasize, and include them as an asset in the pathway that you assign your class.
- You can build questions that target particular steps in the protocol and ask, “If a particular step was not completed as described, would that change the outcome?” You could also challenge learners to repeat the simulation and change that step to collect evidence to support their claim.
- Learners can create their own text asset that includes a description of what they did in the simulation, a picture of their results, and which steps in the technique were most important to giving them those results.
- You can ask learners to reflect on their learning through a discussion board post.
- You can ask learners to share their results by taking a screenshot and submitting the image in a learning management system or through email.
- You can prompt learners to explain the role of each of the materials in the simulation, or to choose two and explain how they work together in the technique.