Online Learning Update

July 27, 2013

Learning online: The virtual lab

Filed under: Online Learning News — Ray Schroeder @ 12:07 am

by M. Mitchell Waldrop, Nature

Confronted with the explosive popularity of online learning, researchers are seeking new ways to teach the practical skills of science. “Labs are where we offer students the opportunity to engage with real lab equipment, to analyse authentic data, to experience the wonder of observation,” says Mike Sharples, an education-technology researcher at the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK. Today, almost all the lab work is available online through the university’s OpenScience Laboratory. Just like many working scientists, students can collect real data from remotely controlled instruments — among them a γ-ray spectrometer for identifying elements and isotopes, and a 0.43-metre telescope in Majorca, Spain. Students can also explore real data with simulated instruments such as the virtual microscope, with which they look at high-resolution images instead of real specimens. “They zoom in, adjust the focus and control where in the sample they’re looking,” says Sharples — just as they would on real instruments.

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