Virtual labs now offered


Krys Shahin

Labster offers dozens of simulations for different courses, mostly focused in the sciences.

Weston Hopkins, Staff Writer

As Los Medanos College students and staff continue to adapt to teaching remotely, a new tool has been added to the repertoire of online education.

“The State of California Community College Chancellor’s Office has purchased the rights for all Community College faculty in the state to use Labster at least through June 30,” wrote Dean of Math and Sciences Ryan Pedersen in an email.

Labster is an online resource that allows students to participate in interactive virtual lab simulations.

According to the Labster website, the simulations include, “elements such as an immersive 3D universe, storytelling and a scoring system which stimulates students’ natural curiosity and highlights the connection between science and the real world.”

LMC faculty began accessing and integrating Labster into their Canvas shells April 6, but Labster offered a variety of training sessions that started over the spring break.

“Several faculty and staff have attended these training [sessions]. There are more being held regularly and faculty are participating in them,” wrote Pedersen.

There are over 100 virtual labs offered by Labster, which range from the sciences and learning about acids and bases, photography and learning how to use reflection and refraction to take photos, and everything in between. With so many options, LMC may now be able to offer more classes online for the summer semester.

According to Pedersen, this is still “being evaluated by the individual faculty who are teaching these courses.”

LMC faculty are currently reviewing the virtual labs to make sure they fit the needs and curriculum for their classes. Access to Labster is quite recent, it is not yet clear how effective the program can be for students and staff alike.

“As with any tool, there is likely a range of quality depending upon the subject, topic, and specific simulation that is being offered. It is likely that some faculty and students will find some simulations more helpful than others. It is doubtful that this tool will act as a single-solution for converting labs into an online format,” wrote Pedersen.

At the recent Academic Senate meeting Mark Lewis, a biology professor, brought up a few concerns he had with Labster. A few concerns he had were that there was a lack of access for phone and tablets, which makes it so that many students cannot access Labster and the fact that the offered virtual labs don’t give you the hands-on experience you need.

“What we [the Science Department] were thinking of doing in our department as far as labs online for summer is… to make physical lab kits that are home kits for students,” he said.

Though Lewis understands logistically and financially this would be difficult, he wants students to get the hands-on learning experience they would usually get in a face-to-face classroom environment.

“Personally as a lab teacher I think the online labs suck,” said Lewis.

As the tactics to avoid the spread of the COVID-19 virus continue to change day-to-day, Labster will continue to be explored to make sure LMC students can get the education they signed up for.