Skip to content

Leaders in Professional, Continuing and Online Education

Online: Trending Now

Unique biweekly insights and news review
from Ray Schroeder, Director of the National Council for Online Education

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 practicesContinuing and Online Education Update blog by UPCEA. You can have the updates sent directly to your email each morning  – no advertising, no spam!

Best,

Ray Schroeder, Founding Director
National Council for Online Education

 

Ray Schroeder 2016 Summit for Online Leadership

Ray Schroeder is Professor Emeritus, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Senior Fellow 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.

Other UPCEA Updates + Blogs

Emboldening Student Driven Learning in the Online Environment

By SmartBrief Editors This post is produced in partnership with UPCEA.   The world of professional, continuing and online education is in constant flux. Former associate dean of academic affairs at Syracuse University and current University of North Carolina at Greensboro division of online learning dean, Dr. Karen Bull provides her perspective in this online…

Read More

Why Smart Cities Need Liberal Arts Graduates

As a lover of science fiction, I find myself picking movie genres that depict a future society fighting against the tyranny of unfair rulers protecting what they think is a utopian society. Ultimately, the masses win and freedom reigns. What our future society will look like depends on many things. Whether it will be dystopia…

Read More

Overdue Urban Solutions: Smarter Houses and Buildings

In reflection of my reading or movie choices, I just now realized that my genre of movies centers around how society must survive in the future.  There is a clear adversary and the inhabitants of the future city have an opportunity for freedom from tyranny.  It’s a struggle for potential utopia or the choice of…

Read More

Policy Matters | Sen. Alexander wants to pass scaled-back HEA (September 2019)

Welcome to the fourth installment in our monthly public policy primer, Policy Matters. Each issue has the latest updates and actionable items in public policy for adult and nontraditional education stakeholders.  Major Updates Senator Alexander Announces Intent to Pass Scaled-Back Higher Education Act Reauthorization Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) stated he wants to attempt to update broad-based…

Read More

Smart Cities and Transportation, and the Impact on Higher Education

Despite the increase in distracted drivers, the number of accidents has declined. While a number of factors may be at play, better technology and engineering are certainly having an impact. While accidents have declined, fatalities from large vehicles, vehicles to pedestrians and vehicles to pedal-pedestrians has increased. Will the self-driving vehicle help improve safety? To…

Read More

Deconstructing the Economic Factors Affecting Professional Learning

By SmartBrief Editors This post is produced in partnership with UPCEA. The desire to advance in a career field or life in general is not enough for individuals who are ready to learn more and better their circumstances. Disparity exists when it comes to post-secondary education, including traditional college, certification programs and other forms of…

Read More

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.


Click here to learn more.

The Nation's Top Universities Choose UPCEA Consulting

Informed decisions. Ideas that work. The data you need. Trusted by the top universities in the nation.