As the world continues to move into a space where virtual labs are even more necessary, Lumen decided it was important to evaluate the variety of virtual lab products and solutions that are currently available. We specifically wanted to look at how each option will serve our mission of student success. So we analyzed a selection of features including ease of student use, adoptability, and how well the lessons align with our course learning outcomes.
Please note that Lumen does not currently have any partnerships with these organizations, nor have we been asked to review these virtual lab products. We created this documentation solely to help our faculty and institutions figure out what might work best for their courses. After reviewing over a dozen options, these are the virtual lab solutions we recommend:
Pivot Interactives offers over 30 biology interactives across a variety of biology topics. These lessons have clear instructions, are very detailed, and lay out a learning plan for students. The interactives are either video- or simulation-based and the video-based interactives allow students to change the parameters of the experiment. This results in a new video and creates a more real-life experience. Some interactives are machine graded, but this feature is not consistent throughout. The interactives are organized by level of scaffolding, instructional purpose, and location in the instructional cycle making lab selection for teachers very easy and straightforward. Teachers may request a 14-day trial to explore the offerings, and their reasonable pricing is determined by the number of students enrolled.
NOVA labs offers 7 free lab experiences across a variety of topics like: constructing renewable energy systems, designing RNA molecules, exploring the past climate of the polar regions, and creating evolution trees. Each lab offers a unique, engaging, and informative experience for students as they are guided through different areas of active research. Labs illustrate key concepts well and support learning through videos, questions, and modeling. NOVA labs offers educator guides to support teachers in lab implementation and provide supplemental resources for each lab.
Labster has created many simulations over varying levels and biology topics. The simulations are 3D animations offering an immersive storyline experience for students to apply their knowledge. Each simulation has an automatically graded quiz embedded for teachers to assess students’ comprehension. Simulations come with clear learning objectives and instructions for students and take anywhere from 20 – 50 minutes to complete. Pricing begins at $49 per student for access to only 8 simulations, but institution-wide pricing is also offered.
LabXchange combines open-source interactives, simulations, case studies, assessments, videos, and pathways into one searchable/filterable library – over 4,000 are biology based. These lessons come from OpenStax, The Concord Consortium, Khan Academy, PhET, and other open education resources. Simulations are not as in-depth and complex as the others on this list but do offer brief, situational-based learning for students. LabXchange is a great resource for teachers wanting to add quick activities, lessons, and videos to their courses without having to sign up for anything.
Below is an example of how you might fit a few of these virtual labs into Lumen biology courses:
Students must create evolution trees and answer questions based on evolution trees
- Biology for Majors I – Module 13: Theory of Evolution
- Biology for Non-Majors I – Module 12: Theory of Evolution
- Biology for Non-Majors II – Module 2: History of Life
Design RNA by solving RNA folding puzzles
- Biology for Majors I – Module 3: Important Biological Macromolecules
- Biology for Majors I – Module 10: DNA Transcription and Translation
- Biology for Non-Majors I – Module 3: Important Biological Macromolecules
- Biology for Non-Majors I – Module 9: DNA Transcription and Translation
Looks at how the climate of the poles has changed over time
- Biology for Majors II – Module 26: Ecology and the Environment
- Biology for Non-Majors II – Module 15: Ecology and the Environment