Creative Learning in a Virtual Wet Lab
With small communities spread across the Alaskan Bush, some of which have no road access, our institution was faced with a daunting challenge: how can we overcome a lack of infrastructure and trained lab assistants to provide a high quality, real time science lab?
Our virtual wet lab system seeks to provide a “hands on” lab environment where students can do a live lab together, regardless of physical location. Intuitive camera presets ease the frustration of trying to examine multiple objects in real time in order to complete labs in faster than real time. One lab allows students to instantly cross fruit fly traits and explore the fundamentals of Mendelian genetics. Another lab examines the DNA of a poached fish as students complete a 24 hour lab in 2 hours. We use a virtual world to re-conceptualize what it means to conduct a science lab: the student becomes a participant within whatever image or data they are observing. For example, by controlling time, students experience predatory natural selection as a bird hunting for food during 250 years of environmental change. Other labs, such as fermentation and biochemical evidence for evolution, delay reactions to enhance data collection.
Students enjoy interacting with altered time and virtual space as they develop essential lab skills that can be applied toward new situations in more advanced classes.
An Overview of the Virtual Lab
The video above demonstrates what our virtual lab can do. If the embedded link does not work, you can access the file here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cj88kWVuvS8
Problems or Questions?
These labs are not open to the general public as classes are periodically utilizing them. For questions or comments, contact:
Virtual Worlds Instructional Designer
Prince William Sound Community College
Valdez, AK 99686
dbickley At pwscc DOT edu