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Conversion of a Physical Biology Lab to an Online Virtual Lab Essay

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The core curriculum of biology courses at the college level typically includes a lab component. Availability of biology courses, and their accompanying lab, can often be limited due to a shortage of the resources required to offer the lab. These resources include faculty time, laboratory supplies for the physical lab, laboratory facilities, and safety/training resources for lab technicians. Due to these limitations, the number of students that are able to enroll in hands-on lab training fails to meet demand. To address these issues, an online virtual laboratory should be added as a tool for the Biology Department.
Online services have an impact on many aspects of life, including education. The instances of online learning and hybrid classes continue to grow. A study by Allen, Seaman and Garrett found that almost 55% of all educational institutions offer at least one blended course while 64% offer at least one online course (Allen, et al, 2007, p. 7). Students have become comfortable with online education, and adding virtual labs to the expanding online and blended curriculum is helping schools meet the student demands for classes.
Virtual Labs
Virtual biology laboratories are computer simulations that contain digital models of the instructions, procedures, experiment manipulatives, and data collection functions of a physical biology lab. Web-based biology labs are widely available, with a number of simulations being offered at no charge.
The simulations cover a wide variety of topics that are customarily studied in biology labs, such as cell structure and reproduction, genetics, DNA, evolution, microorganisms, plants, and animal organ systems. A quality lab simulator will contain a large selection of lab experiments that guid...


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...rgraduate Education. AAHE Bulletin, 39(7), 3-7.
Carmichael, A., Chini, J. J., Gire, E., Rebello, N. S., & Puntambekar, S. (n.d.). Comparing the Effects of Sequencing of Physical and Virtual Manipulatives on Student Learning and Confidence. Retrieved from http://web.phys.ksu.edu/papers/2011/carmichael-narst.pdf
Finkelstein, N. D., Perkins, K. K., Adams, W., Kohl, P., & Podolefsky, N. (2004). Can Computer Simulations Replace Real Equipment in Undergraduate Laboratories? American Institute of Physics, 101-104.
Huang, C. (2004, June). Virtual Labs: E-Learning for Tomorrow. PLoS Biology, 2, 734-735. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0020157
Wu, H., & Puntambekar, S. (2012, January 18). Pedagogical Affordances of Multiple External Representations in Scientific Processes. Journal of Science Education Technology, 21, 754-767. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10956-011-9363-7



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