Today, it’s estimated that about a third of college students are taking at least one course online. Some course subjects, such as English literature or political science, easily lend themselves to a digital environment. Others, such as chemistry and lab science courses, are a little trickier to tackle.
Lab-based courses require specialized equipment, supplies, and instruction. Some universities possess the resources and financial support to offer at-home lab kits, but others are forced to be increasingly creative and strategic in their approaches to online science labs.
So, what can students really expect from online chemistry courses – and how can universities mimic the strengths of an in-person laboratory experience?
As an institution or professor, there are some necessary expectations to set for a successful online chemistry lesson. These elements can transform an online science lab into an engaging, informative lab experience for students.
Chemistry might be a somewhat niche major, but more than 16,500 American students graduate with chemistry degrees every year. If colleges are going to switch to more flexible remote learning setups, they’ll need to account for the needs of their chemistry courses and students.
(1) Experiments Supported by Technology
It’s challenging to replicate a hands-on laboratory experience online. However, digital technologies can support and even improve the practical experience in new ways. Today’s students have the chance to access virtual labs via laptops, desktops, computers, and tablets from potentially anywhere in the world.
Remote students need the capabilities to thoroughly investigate the structure, properties, and transformation of matter – just like in-person students do. This includes observing and describing chemical reactions, building molecular models, performing titrations, and identifying unknown chemicals.
An online laboratory can make it easy for students to visualize these difficult concepts. For instance, instructors can provide videos that effectively demonstrate online chemistry lab experiments, and students can re-watch to better understand the theories and actions presented.
The use of technology also supports online chemistry simulations. For lab experiences that primarily focus on developing students’ skills with experimental protocols, digital simulations allow instructors to fully approach complex objectives. Students are able to simulate quantitative and qualitative labs, then record their findings with online lab books and data captures.
At Science Interactive, we’re partnered with BeyondLabz to offer both video content and virtual simulations for online courses. Our goal is to provide the most advanced digital lab science tools so that students can devise experiments, make mistakes, and learn from home.
Specifically, we’re creating chemistry lab simulations to allow students to really discover advanced concepts and virtual classic experiments These simulations rely on advanced technologies and strategies, designed specifically for distance-learning purposes. Some of our virtual labs include “Acid-Base Chemistry,” “Qualitative Analysis,” and “Thermodynamics and Hess’ Law.”
(2) Growing Digital Libraries of Chemistry Resources
Another expectation for any chemistry lab is access to adequate resources. Although costs or logistics sometimes make it impossible for universities or professors to order physical lab kits, there are other resources that can make online learning successful.
With the increase in demand for online science lessons, digital lab libraries are growing. Instructors can work within vast online collections to bolster their chemistry lab curriculums.
This doesn’t just benefit instructors – students want increased access to different materials. In the 2021 Digital Learning Pulse Survey, published by Bay View Analytics and their partners, 67% of the surveyed college students indicated they would like to see an increase in the usage of digital materials and resources.
Science Interactive’s digital library of labs is one of many working to bridge the gap between students across the globe. Access to quality science education has never been so widespread, but there’s always room for improvement. In general, online lab resources will continue to grow as more colleges and universities transition to digital learning opportunities.
Although creating online science classrooms may be challenging in many respects, they can also offer faculty members the chance to change how many students think about their labs. College instructors can use the online lab experience to explore research topics, broaden their use of different materials, and connect students with ever-expanding digital resources.
(3) Increased Student Support
Students can (and should) expect a different level of support from online chemistry labs than they would from in-person courses. In a 2020 survey conducted by Skyes, nearly half of the students reported that they wanted more support on how to better virtually collaborate with classmates and how to deal with tech issues.
When chemistry students aren’t in a physical classroom, it’s easier for them to feel disconnected from both their instructors and their peers. It takes extra effort on the part of the instructors to facilitate communication and build a supportive educational environment.
The success of online science classes with labs is particularly dependent on the level of student support from universities and instructors. Whether students are conducting virtual science experiments or watching videos of simulations, they need to know they can turn to professors for help with their digital platforms and tools, as well as the concepts being taught.
One of our top priorities at Science Interactive is to make it simpler for professors to support online learners with a customizable online platform. Professors need the ability to carefully tailor every virtual course, including online chemistry labs, to their students’ specific needs. This will help students feel more involved and supported throughout their learning experience.
(4) Courses Centered Around Real-World Leaners
The bottom line is that online courses should meet the needs of modern students, and they require more flexible setups. According to Bay Atlantic University’s research, up to 63% of online students committed to their online program because it aligned with their current life and/or work responsibilities.
From mothers learning at nighttime to students with full-time jobs, today’s chemistry instructors are teaching a new generation of learners that need their courses to fit their schedules. Chemistry classes with online learning labs can do just that, as long as they are properly planned and students have access to the necessary materials.
Our online chemistry course builder services help instructors and universities customize curriculums to meet their unique student body and its needs. Although every student might need to learn about chemical reactions and performing titrations, they also need online chemistry courses that fit their lifestyles.
Moving Forward With Online Lab Setups
These elements can make online chemistry labs available and valuable to a wide variety of virtual students. Instructors are expected to develop experiments that students can perform at home, provide video demonstrations, incorporate engaging lab simulations, and provide continuous access and resources to learners.
In doing so, instructors (and the universities behind them) can help students successfully meet course objectives and make practical, meaningful connections to the material presented.
Help Creating Your Virtual Lab Environment
For more than 20 years, Science Interactive has been at the forefront of distance learning and education. Not only have we’ve learned that online science lab courses are possible, but we’ve cultivated powerful solutions for the challenges they present.
We’ve designed our hands-on lab kits, digital lessons, and online learning platform to meet the unique needs of virtual science classes. If your university is transitioning to an increasingly digital course setup, allow us to bring your interactive science labs online with minimal hiccups.
To get started, request a free eval kit that aligns with your customized online chemistry lab. You can also contact us online or call 866-206-0773.