Virtual Labs Coming of Age
Online: Trending Now #144
Have we finally arrived at a point where we can effectively teach laboratory classes online?
Recently, the University of Pennsylvania announced that they will launch a baccalaureate degree at scale online next fall. They are not the only ones to offer entire undergraduate degrees online, but they are the first from the Ivy League. There is a surfeit of master’s degrees online from a wide variety of institutions. So, why have the baccalaureates lagged behind?
There are a number of factors. Of course the baccalaureate commonly requires 120 or more credit hours, while the master’s commonly requires 36 to 48 credit hours. The shorter degrees are easier to mount because they require fewer courses, if for no other reason. The challenges of accessing computer labs for coding and desktop software in general has been tackled by a wide array of virtual desktop solutions. However, the deeper challenge has been to find a way to effectively offer the science laboratories that are part of most general education core curricula. How can chemistry, biology, physics and related sciences be effectively offered without laboratories?
Solutions have been pursued through the use of “kitchen” labs and lab kits sent to students. These offer students the opportunity to perform non-dangerous experiments in their own homes, often using chemicals that are readily available at groceries. It can be useful, particularly for general education, non-science major students. But, there is a growing move toward alternatives that provide more realistic experiences for those who are pursuing STEM degrees. These alternatives include remote access labs and virtual labs and simulations. These can be seen as part of the continuum of advancements to provide more robust AI-enhanced, interactive resources to distant students.
Drexel’s Virtually Inspired site points to a handful of outstanding virtual labs at universities around the world. Most notable are those that use a smart phone app to conduct the experience, rather than requiring a larger machine and monitor.
Perhaps the use of virtual labs at this point in 2018 is best as an introduction to lab work, rather than advanced experimentation as is suggested in this EdSurge article.
While we may not be all of the way there in fully replicating laboratories in virtual and augmented environments, it is still impressive to view how Case Western Reserve University Medical School is implementing the hololens to augment some of their instruction and practice.
As business and industry continue to implement virtual and augmented tools to replace “wet” labs and approaches, the move to distant virtual labs will accelerate. Stay tuned!
Of course, I will continue to track the developments in emerging trends, technologies, pedagogies and practices, Continuing and Online Education Update blog by UPCEA. You can have the updates sent directly to your email each morning – no advertising, no spam!
Ray Schroeder, Founding Director
National Council for Online Education
Ray Schroeder is Professor Emeritus, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Senior Fellow, and Founding Director of the National Council for Online Education at UPCEA. Each year, Ray publishes and presents nationally on emerging topics in online and technology-enhanced learning. Ray’s social media publications daily reach more than 12,000 professionals. He is the inaugural recipient of the A. Frank Mayadas Online Leadership Award, recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award, the United States Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame Award, and the American Journal of Distance Education/University of Wisconsin Wedemeyer Excellence in Distance Education Award 2016.
Whether you need benchmarking studies, or market research for a new program, UPCEA Consulting is the right choice.
We know you. We know the challenges you face and we have the solutions you need. We speak your language and have been serving leaders like you for more than 100 years. UPCEA consultants are current or former continuing and online higher education professionals who are experts in the industry—put our expertise to work for you.
The National Council for Online Education is dedicated to advancing quality online learning at the institutional level. The National Council is uniquely focused on excellence at the highest levels – leadership, administration, strategy – applying a macro lens to the online teaching and learning enterprise. Its engaged members include the stewards of online learning at most of the leading universities in the nation.
The National Council for Online Education offers a variety of custom research options through a variable pricing model.
Other UPCEA Updates + Blogs
Higher education marketers are faced with significant challenges in attracting new adult students into their professional, continuing, and online (PCO) programs. The target market is now primarily spread across four generations of adult learners, recent Generation Z graduates (those 22 or younger) and Gen Zers not going to college, Millennials (those 23 to 37 years…Read More
Shortly before the November election, word leaked that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was considering developing a definition of “sex” that would, in effect, maintain that an individual’s sex was determined at birth and was unchangeable. In a letter last week, UPCEA, along with ACE and 27 other higher education associations, urged HHS not…Read More
With the holidays near, we need to give thanks for the many opportunities that 2019 should provide to higher education. The next few years (including 2019) bring the promise of a new and exciting economy, one based heavily on automation and efficiencies and fueled by the once-mocked Millennials (born between 1980 and 1996; now roughly…Read More
University of Delaware Associate Vice Provost, Professional and Continuing Studies & Online Initiatives Jim Broomall to Retire
Dr. James K. Broomall will retire as associate vice provost, professional and continuing studies & online initiatives at the University of Delaware effective January 15, 2019. Jim holds a secondary appointment in the College of Education and Human Development. Before returning to Delaware in 1988, Jim held program and leadership roles at the University of…Read More
With Halloween only recently past, ghosts still are among us in society. They live among and can frequent colleges and universities, even our professional, continuing and online education units through “ghosting.” Ghosting is a term often associated with younger generations regarding relationships. However, the phrase has recently started entering the workplace with new hires not…Read More
After successfully piloting virtual ThinkTanks in 2018 with Utah State University and Oregon State University, we’re happy to announce the 2019 eDC ThinkTank Roadshow schedule. We’ve tweaked things a bit and the 2019 eDC ThinkTanks will now be free and open to all members of UPCEA! Non-members will be charged a nominal registration fee. We…Read More