Bringing An Edge To The Next Generation Of Science Education

Bringing An Edge To The Next Generation Of Science Education

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Students sit through hours and hours of boring and unengaging lectures. Professors ramble on to an audience of students sleepily typing away on their smart phones while checking Facebook, Twitter and pretty much anything else that has nothing to do with the lecture. How do we fix this?

Enter Labster!

Founded in 2010, Labster (@labster) has been working hard on developing state-of-the-art, cutting edge technology for science education.

Labster currently has many prominent partners, such as UC Berkeley and Stanford University, that have helped Labster to develop an immersive virtual laboratory where adaptive learning techniques are used. The system uses gamification to keep the material fun and relatable for students.

Teachers can use Labster to supplement existing science classes or replace real-life experiments, which are usually conducted in a physical lab. What makes Labster stand out is its use of game-based learning techniques and real-life scenarios in a virtual environment. This technique has proven to stimulate student engagement and enhance learning outcomes. The Labster laboratory itself would cost millions of dollars in real life; and in the virtual lab, students have the luxury of access to unlimited consumables and reagents to experiment with.

As Labster’s co-founder Michael Bodekaer Jensen explains, “Where students and bio-curious people may never get access to the hundred-thousand dollar NGS machines, electron microscopes or even HPLCs, they now have 24/7 access to a virtual 3D laboratory full of all these amazing machines and a knowledgeable virtual assistant that can show them how to use all of their the cool new toys.”

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Labster’s virtual laboratories are already being used by thousands of students around the world. Each laboratory has a different focus. For example, the CSI lab teaches students the difficult techniques of DNA profiling while they are solving a murder case as CSI detective. The simulations are very real. One student, Ainara Lopez-Cordoba, wrote the following on her blog about her experience with the CSI case: “… you have to prepare your own PCR tube, add the three different reactants needed (nucleotides, polymerase and primers) using the pipette, and don’t forget to change the tip!!!! This looks so real! You even have the container for disposable tips!”

The Future Of Education: 21st Century Virtual Reality Science Laboratories

Labster’s new and exciting virtual reality platform is made in collaboration with Oculus Rift, the VR company recently purchased this year by Facebook for two billion dollars. The virtual reality version of Labster looks very promising. There are many new features in the VR version, which gives an even more real-life lab experience. For instance, in the new VR version, students can enter cancer-ridden cells and look around inside the body in 3D, letting them watch what happens when cancer mutates and spreads. Much in contrast to the 2D version, where you are using your mouse to operate the different machines and mixing reagents, you can utilize an advanced motion and orientation detection game controller, called Razer Hydra.

It is easy to see the advantages of using technological simulators as a teaching tool. With limited school budgets and continuous technological improvements being made to the laboratory equipment and machines, it is challenging for most schools to provide sufficient practical lab experience to its students. Critical voices of simulators in education, however, have raised the question of the proven effectiveness on learning outcomes.

Mads Tvillingegaard Bonde, founder and CEO of Labster, is also a scientist, teacher, and former Harvard student. Along with other students, he has had to deal with problems gaining access to equipment and acquiring practical lab experience.

“Through both my own studies, and teaching experience, I have observed that laboratory teaching is very limited by budget, time, and safety; along with being quite ineffective. When I found that available research on the subject supported my observations, I set out to create a laboratory simulator where students could perform expensive, timely, and hazardous experiments not possible in a real laboratory environment, with proven effectiveness in regards to student learning and motivation.”, says Mads Tvillinggaard Bonde, Founder and CEO Labster, regarding his motivation for creating Labster.

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Critical voices were further silenced this summer, when the prominent science journal, Nature Biotechnology, featured new research on the effectiveness of simulators in education. All the findings published in the July issue of Nature Biotechnology were from research solely done on Labster’s virtual laboratories, by prominent universities in USA and Denmark, and the results were clear and unambiguous. 97% found the gamified simulations used in Labster made course content interesting and stimulating. 86% said the simulations were more interesting than traditional teaching methods. 44% would consider a field of study connected to biotechnology after using Labster.

The study shows, with significance, that students using just Labster scored 76% higher on tests than students using only traditional teaching methods and in addition, Labster helps teachers more effectively instruct larger groups of students.

While Labster exists in a virtual environment, it shows real world results. By engaging students and showing them the potential of their studies, student motivation increases to create the desire for students to learn. At the same time, Labster provides teachers with the tools to supplement their lessons with material that creates new dimensions of learning to better bring about the proper learning outcomes.

All teachers can try out Labster for free, see more on www.labster.com.

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