Thinking Outside the Box with Virtual Labs

Published March 13, 2020

By Valerie Kramer, Anatomy & Physiology Marketing Manager

Melissa Wagner

Connect Virtual Labs is a second-generation, fully online lab solution that can be used as a lab replacement, preparation, supplement or make-up lab. They can also be used as a learning activity that bridges the gap between lab and lecture. These simulations help a student learn the practical and conceptual skills needed, then check for understanding and provide feedback. With adaptive pre-lab and post-lab assessment available, instructors can customize each assignment.

Here are some ideas for how to implement the new Connect Virtual Labs in your course.

Virtual Labs as a Lab Replacement:
 Online teaching is becoming even more commonplace. By having a pre-lab assignment, virtual “hands-on” simulation, and a post-lab assignment, you’re able to teach and assess each student’s learning and take the place of lab time. Each simulation takes approximately 15-20 minutes, so students are consistently engaged and with the pre- and post-assignments, can be used as the full replacement online.

Virtual Labs for Lab Preparation:
 Do you have students that aren’t confident walking into a laboratory setting? We have heard you talk about the challenge of students being underprepared for lecture and lab. By having students do the simulations prior to face-to-face lab time, they are able to understand what lab equipment they will be using and what to expect from the lab activity. This can also save lab resources! By having students first complete the experiment virtually, there’s a better chance they will not wastes lab resources.
Take it a step further and assign the simulation as a lab entrance ticket! How about using the simulation as a quick way to make students responsible for doing some pre-lab work? Tell them to do a specific lab simulation. Then, after completed, print a pdf (the document will be timestamped with their name and time) that becomes the student’s lab “Entrance Ticket”. This idea requires very little time investment from the instructor.

Virtual Labs in Lecture:
 To bridge the gap between lab and lecture, these simulations can be used as an active learning activity. Because Virtual Labs works on mobile-friendly browsers and was designed for screens the size of a small tablet it is a digital tool that can be used easily during lecture time. Instructors can have students get in pairs or small groups to work these simulations together. This is a great opportunity for students to collaborate and discuss the process and outcomes of the simulation. Another idea is for you the instructor to have students verbally guide you through the simulation as a way to increase student engagement and interaction in your lecture.
Perhaps you covered a specific topic in lab weeks prior but are just now getting to that topic in the lecture, or it will be a week or two before students cover this concept in lab? This is a perfect opportunity to integrate these concepts into to your lecture section by assigning a simulation as a way to reinforce and review, or preview, these concepts.

Virtual Labs as a Supplement:
 If you are unable to do a specific lab, i.e. Blood Typing, EKG, or DNA Isolation, because of lack of expensive lab equipment, these simulations are a great way that you can supplement your face-to-face lab course.

Virtual Labs as a Make-up Lab:
Have you been faced with school closures? Perhaps due to sickness or a weather event? Or, during the week of a holiday, do you have to cancel all labs that week? Laboratory time is precious, and it can often be difficult to get labs rescheduled or allow students to get into the physical lab. By allowing students to do the virtual lab in its place, this saves the student—and instructor—the stress of having to make-up the lab.

Virtual Labs for Accessibility:
Connect Virtual Labs were designed from the onset to meet standards for accessibility. They are operable by keyboard navigation and with a screen-reader. Service animals are often not allowed into the laboratory for safety reasons. Allowing students with a service animal the ability to complete virtual simulations eliminates stress and provides educational opportunities for these students.
What about a student who is impaired suddenly? Perhaps a student breaks their arm or runs into another unfortunate circumstance? By having keyboard navigation, a student in this situation is still able to meet the learning objectives for the course.

Get Creative!
With the Virtual Labs as an assignment type in your Connect course, you are bound to find other ways to utilize these lab simulations in your A&P course, so have fun. And, please share with us how you are using them! Send us an email at A& .

Want to learn how you can use some of our other lab tools in your course? Check out this article with creative uses of Anatomy & Physiology Revealed .

Valerie Kramer
Valerie Kramer is the Anatomy & Physiology Marketing Manager for McGraw-Hill. With a passion for education and the life sciences, she is responsible for assisting in the development of and bringing to market innovative tools to help instructors and students succeed in the Human Anatomy, Human Physiology, and Anatomy and Physiology courses of higher education. At McGraw-Hill, she shares insights on the pulse of Anatomy & Physiology through her ‘Succeed in A&P’ podcast and recently helped bring the new interface of Anatomy & Physiology Revealed (APR) and Connect® Virtual Labs products to market.