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Competency-based education in health care requires rigorous standards to ensure professional proficiency. Demonstrating competency in hands-on laboratories calls for effective preparation, knowledge, and experience, all of which can be difficult to achieve using traditional teaching methods. Virtual laboratories are an alternative, cost-effective approach to providing students with sufficient preparatory information. Research on the use of virtual labs in allied health education is limited. The current study investigated the benefits, challenges, and perceived impact of a virtual lab in an allied health program. The sample consisted of 64 students (55 females, 9 males) enrolled in a university medical laboratory science program. A convergent mixed-methods approach (Likert survey, open-ended questions, think-aloud protocol data) revealed that students had positive attitudes towards visual learning, authenticity, learner control, organization, and scaffolding afforded by the virtual lab. Challenges reported included navigational difficulties, an absence of control over content selection, and lack of understanding for certain concepts. Over 90% of students agreed that the virtual lab helped them prepare for hands-on laboratory sessions and that they would use this format of instruction again. Overall, 84% of the students agreed that the virtual lab helped them to achieve greater success in learning.
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Competency-based education in health care requires rigor-
ous standards to ensure professional proficiency. Demon-
strating competency in hands-on laboratories calls for
effective preparation, knowledge, and experience, all of
which can be difficult to achieve using traditional teaching
methods. Virtual laboratories are an alternative, cost-effec-
tive approach to providing students with sufficient prepara-
tory information. Research on the use of virtual labs in
allied health education is limited. The current study investi-
gated the benefits, challenges, and perceived impact of a
virtual lab in an allied health program. The sample consisted
of 64 students (55 females, 9 males) enrolled in a university
medical laboratory science program. A convergent mixed-
methods approach (Likert survey, open-ended questions,
think-aloud protocol data) revealed that students had pos-
itive attitudes towards visual learning, authenticity, learner
control, organization, and scaffolding afforded by the vir-
tual lab. Challenges reported included navigational difficul-
ties, an absence of control over content selection, and lack
of understanding for certain concepts. Over 90% of stu-
dents agreed that the virtual lab helped them prepare for
hands-on laboratory sessions and that they would use this
format of instruction again. Overall, 84% of the students
agreed that the virtual lab helped them to achieve greater
success in learning. J Allied Health 2018; 47(1):45–50.
ONGOING ADVANCEMENTS in patient care have
prompted change in the delivery of health education
and led to a recent worldwide focus on a competency-
based model.1,2 A competency-based program develops
learning objectives based on a profession’s requirements
for entry into practice.3However, a competency-based
approach poses numerous challenges for educators and
students,2including excessive content coverage, cogni-
tive overload of students,1over-reliance on traditional
teaching methods,4inflexibility,5limited accessibility,
and financial sustainability.6Simulations and virtual
learning environments offer a cost-effective, accessible,
flexible, learner-centred option for facilitating a compe-
tency-based agenda in health care education.2,4,7
Benefits and Challenges of Using Virtual Labs
Students need theoretical and procedural preparation to
engage in meaningful hands-on laboratory activities.8,9
Poor preparation can lead to cognitive overload when
students attempt to learn novel hands-on skills and new
theoretical concepts simultaneously.8,9 Some research
suggests that students do not regularly participate in pre-
laboratory exercises.9,10–12 Virtual labs, available to stu-
dents anytime and anywhere, might help increase the
participation rate in pre-laboratory activities.
Benefits: Medical knowledge doubles every 6 to 8
years.13 This expanding knowledge base and the
increasing cost of running hands-on laboratory classes
are pushing healthcare programs to consider virtual lab
alternatives.14 Virtual labs support learning through
visual supports,8,9 opportunities for repetitive prac-
tice,9,15,16 learner control,13,17,18 and detailed scaffolding
for difficult concepts.9,19 Effective virtual labs offer a
realistic layout,20,21 are easy to use and navigate,18,21 and
provide timely, effective feedback.9,18,22
Challenges: Two main challenges associated with use
of virtual labs are authenticity23,24 and student motiva-
tion.9,20,25–28 Virtual labs can lack authenticity, because
they do not contain the element of uncertainty that
exists in a hands-on experience.23,24 In addition, virtual
labs must be designed with care to motivate students,29
or otherwise extrinsic motivation in the form of grades
or assessment may be required to ensure participa-
tion.20,25,27,28 Some researchers argue that participation
should be through intrinsic motivation created by well-
designed virtual labs.9,26
Impact: Virtual labs may help to overcome the inher-
ent difficulties of more traditional, passive learning
environments and encourage students to be responsible
for their learning.6Several studies reported that stu-
dents had positive attitudes toward using virtual labs
for knowledge acquisition.9,21,30 For example, Sancho et
al.30 noted that 90% of students (n=292) believed learn-
Assessing the Impact of a Virtual Lab in an
Allied Health Program
Robin Kay, PhD
Helene Goulding, MA
Jia Li, PhD
Dr. Kay is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Ms. Goulding is
Senior Lecturer, and Dr. Li is Assistant Professor, University of Ontario
Institute of Technology, Oshawa, Canada.
The authors report no funding or conflicts of interest related to this
RA1771—Received Sep 21, 2016; accepted Feb 2, 2017.
Address correspondence to: Dr. Robin Kay, Faculty of Education, Uni-
versity of Ontario Institute of Technology, 11 Simcoe Street North,PO
Box 385, Oshawa, ON L1H 7L7, Canada. Tel 905-721-8668.
© 2018 Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions, Wash., DC.
ing with a virtual laboratory allowed them to gain both
theoretical knowledge and practical expertise that they
would not have achieved through conventional meth-
ods alone. Also, student engagement in virtual prepara-
tory labs can increase confidence and performance in
hands-on laboratories.9,12,31
Research Gaps and Questions
To date, healthcare researchers have investigated the
use virtual learning environments in medicine, den-
tistry, and nursing. However, minimal literature is avail-
able in the domain of allied health.7Butina et al.7
reported that 85% of allied health programs that cur-
rently do not use virtual learning environments would
be interested in doing so. Baker and Verran14added that
allied health students need exposure to multiple and
varied scenarios to improve clinical diagnostic skills,
and virtual laboratories could support this process.
In the current study, three key research questions
examined students’ attitudes towards the impact of the
virtual lab to prepare them for a hands-on laboratory
1. What are the perceived benefits of using the virtual lab to
prepare students for hands-on laboratory sessions?
2. What are the perceived challenges of using the virtual lab
to prepare students for hands-on laboratory sessions?
3. What is the perceived impact of the virtual lab on the
development of students’ skills?
The participants consisted of 64 students (55 females, 9
males) sampled from a total population of 97 under-
graduate students for a response rate of 66%. Partici-
pants were enrolled in the second (n=35), third (n=17), or
fourth year (n=12) of a medical laboratory science pro-
gram in small suburban Canadian university of 10,000
students. Of the participants, 67% (n=42) reported that
they were native-English speakers. Thirty-one percent
(n=23) were between 17–20 yrs old, 36% (n=23) were 21–
24 yrs old, 19% (n=22) were 25–29 yrs old, and 14% (n=9)
were over 29 yrs old. Four percent (n=4) of the students
(3 females, 1 male) submitted a think-aloud video
recording documenting their use of the virtual lab.
Research ethics approval was obtained through the
university and community colleges where the data were
collected. Consent was given by all participants before
they participated in the study.
Description of the Virtual Lab
The underlying motivation for developing the virtual lab
was to help students overcome the challenges of content-
heavy, competency-based courses using an interactive
online tool designed to improve hands-on laboratory
skills. The virtual lab, available at http://virtuallab., mimicked algorithmic bacterial
identification procedures performed in a clinical microbi-
ology laboratory and included several procedural videos
and images of expected reactions. The intent of using the
virtual lab was to allow students selected from three
courses to interact and learn from mistakes in a safe envi-
ronment before undertaking procedures in a hands-on
Research Design and Data Collection
A convergent mixed-methods design32 was chosen to
investigate the benefits and challenges of using a virtual
lab. Three sources of data were collected including a
Likert scale survey, open-ended questions, and think-
aloud video clips of students actually using the virtual
lab. Data from the Likert survey, opened-ended ques-
tions, and think-aloud video recordings were integrated
to reveal areas of potential convergence. Triangulation
of the data was performed to provide greater accuracy
and validity in reporting the results.32,33
The online survey consisted of 14, seven-point Likert
questions ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly
agree.” Three items focused on learning, 3 items referred
to design, and 8 items targeted the perceived impact of
the virtual lab. The internal reliability for the scale was
considered high based on Cronbach’s = 0.90.
Six open-ended, semi-structured questions were used
to assess benefits and challenges of using the virtual lab.
The open-ended responses were analysed thematically
by a data-driven organization approach,34 the research
questions, and theoretical framework.35 All comments
were assigned a main category (learning, design, or
engagement) and theme within the main category. Two
raters assigned categories and themes for all 159 com-
ments. The second rater assessed approximately one-
quarter of the total comments, resulting in 97% inter-
rater agreement.
Four students volunteered to think-aloud while
using the virtual lab. Each student talked out loud for 3
to 5 minutes while using the virtual lab. The process
was recorded using a screen casting software. The
think-aloud method is considered an effective approach
to exploring the use of computer simulation tools.38 The
recordings underwent a coding and analysis process
similar to the open-ended responses and produced 97
comments. Inter-rater agreement for the assigned cate-
gories and themes was 91%.
Medical laboratory science students from three courses
were given access to the virtual lab as a course resource.
Students were advised that completing the pre-labora-
tory activities and using the virtual lab was voluntary
46 KAY ET AL., Impact of a Virtual Lab
and no extrinsic motivational factors, such as assess-
ments or grades, would be associated with their partici-
pation. After using the virtual lab, students were sent
an email inviting them to participate in the study.
Anonymous, online survey data were collected during
weeks 10 to 13 of the semester. After week 13, students
were sent a second email inviting them to create a
think-aloud screencast of them using the virtual lab.
Benefits of Using the Virtual Lab
Mean scores from the Likert scale, ranging from 5.9 to
6.6 on a 7-point scale, suggested that most students
agreed that the virtual lab was easy to use, provided
images and videos that helped them learn, presented a
useful checklist that helped them prepare for hands-on
laboratory sessions, offered a helpful layout for bacterial
identification, and provided helpful feedback (Table 1).
Open-ended data produced 159 comments about
benefits of the virtual lab. Of the comments, 75%
(n=119) focused on learning, 18% (n=29) referred to the
design of the virtual lab, and 7% (n=11) targeted engage-
ment. With respect to learning, visual features (39%,
n=46) were the most the frequently mentioned benefi-
cial characteristic of the virtual lab. Another 27% (n=32)
of the comments referred to the virtual lab’s ability to
offer authentic learning with a genuine interactive
experience, and 14% (n=17) were about the benefits of
learner control, which allowed them to learn at their
own pace, no matter where they were, and at their own
convenience. Using the virtual lab helped some stu-
dents remember (n=11) and understand (n=12) the mate-
rial and concepts better. Table 2 provides sample com-
ments from students.
Regarding design, 55% (n=16) of the comments indi-
cated that the organization of the virtual lab was of the
greatest benefit in preparing for laboratory sessions. For
example, students noted that the virtual lab was organ-
ized exactly the same as bacterial identification per-
formed in hands-on laboratory. Seventeen percent of
the comments offered were about the quality of the
graphics and the ease of use of the virtual lab. Com-
ments about engagement (n=11) focused primarily on
virtual labs being more beneficial than traditional meth-
ods of learning, such as reading laboratory procedural
manuals or hands-on laboratory sessions or conducting
Internet searches. Table 3 provides sample student com-
ments regarding virtual lab design and engagement.
Journal of Allied Health, Spring 2018, Vol 47, No 1 47
TABLE 1. Student Ratings for Benefits of Using a Virtual Lab (n=64)
Item Mean*SD DisagreeAgree
Images help me to learn 6.6 0.6 0% 97%
Videos help me to learn 6.4 0.9 0% 86%
Pre-laboratory checklist exercise helped me to prepare for labs 6.4 0.9 2% 81%
Easy to use 6.2 1.1 3% 86%
Helpful layout for bacterial identification 6.2 0.9 0% 80%
Helpful feedback 5.9 1.1 2% 75%
*Based on 7-point Likert scale (1=strongly disagree to 7=strongly agree).
Disagree includes both disagree and strongly disagree. Agree includes both agree and strongly agree.
TABLE 2. Sample Student Comments about the Learning Benefits of the Virtual Lab (n=119)
Theme Sample Comments
Visual “We can see clearly how the tests [are] being done and what are the possible results.”
“[I] can see procedures beforehand.”
“Allowed for us to see the positive and negatives for the different reactions.”
“It’s fantastic to have a visual way of preparing for the labs.”
Authenticity “It was as if we were at the laboratory bench.”
“It gave you an idea of what to expect in the lab.”
“You had an idea when going into the lab what to look for.”
“It even took students through the steps they needed to do in lab without being in the lab itself.”
Learner control “It’s fantastic to be able to sit at home and view these videos.”
“It gave me the opportunity to go back and review what I missed.”
“It’s essentially a lab session but you can dictate the speed at which you perform the tests.”
Understanding “We’re able to understand the material easily.”
“By watching it before the lab, it helps me to grasp the new concept even better.”
Remembering “I was able to remember the procedure very easily.”
“Able to review tests you forgot.”
Reflective “If the option was incorrect, you have clicked an incorrect option and recommends to return to the previous step.”
Comments from the think-aloud data (n=97) focused
on the benefits of learning (70%, n=68), good design
(18%, n=17), and better engagement (11%, n=11). Most
learning-related comments referred to the extent to
which students could exercise control over their learn-
ing (30%, n=29), referring to place, time, pace, flow, inde-
pendence, and the ability to review. Nineteen percent of
the comments (n=18) related to the students’ ability to
better recall information and remember how to perform
a procedure while using the virtual lab.
Challenges of Using the Virtual Lab
Students offered 39 comments on the challenges of
using the virtual lab. Most challenges were related to
learning (56%, n=22) or design (36%, n=14). Within the
learning category, the lack of learner control (21%, n=8),
difficulties in understanding the material (15%, n=6),
and content issues (13%, n=5) were the most challenging
for students. Learner control issues were related to not
being able to skip forward to the end and the inability
of the program to save the students’ progress. Students
also remarked that not all tests and organisms were rep-
resented in the virtual lab. Regarding content, some stu-
dents noted a few discrepancies between procedures in
the virtual lab and the hands-on lab.
Lack of organization (23%, n=9) was the most com-
monly identified design issue. For example, some stu-
dents disliked not being able to retrieve information
quickly and being required to go through entire identi-
fication pathways. Other students found the pathways
confusing at times and had difficulty finding informa-
tion. Relatively few students noted limitations in graph-
ics (5%, n=2), difficulty of use (5%, n=2), and lack of inter-
activity (3%, n=1).
Only six comments about the challenges of using a
virtual lab were produced from the think-aloud proto-
cols. All referred to students wanting additional con-
tent added to the virtual lab (e.g., “I wish there would be a
motility video,” “Extra stuff would help,” “It would be cool to
have a quick summary,” and “[I] wish there was a written
summary [or] quick reference”).
Impact of the Virtual Lab
The mean scores for Likert questions addressing the
impact of the virtual lab, ranging from 6.7 to 6.1 (out of
7), indicated that students felt the lab was efficient and
helpful in preparing them for the hands-on laboratory.
Most students noted that they achieved greater success
due to the virtual lab and would enthusiastically use it
again for future preparation (Table 4).
Key beneficial characteristics of the virtual lab iden-
tified from open-ended comments (n=69) included the
visual graphics and supports (52%, n=36) and effective
organization and design (16%, n=11).
This study examined the benefits, challenges, and per-
ceived impact of using a virtual lab to prepare allied
health students, enrolled in a medical labortory science
program, for a hands-on laboratory. Previous research
has examined the use of virtual labs in medicine, den-
tistry, and nursing, but not allied health. The benefits
that students rated highest included visual learning,
authenticity, learner control, effective design, and scaf-
folded learning.
Students often struggle to visualise laboratory expecta-
tions from written or verbal instructions.9Preference for
visualisation by students in this study is not surprising, as
the literature suggests that most students prefer visual
supports36 over traditional written laboratory manuals.8,9
48 KAY ET AL., Impact of a Virtual Lab
TABLE 3. Sample Student Comments about the
Design Benefits of the Virtual Lab (n=29)
Theme Sample Comments
Organization “I love how it was set up as a flow chart kind of
“It was like a nice flow chart that gave you an idea
of how to proceed with different reactions.”
Graphics “Good pictures of tests and media.”
“The length of each video was ideal.”
Ease of use “[It was] easy to understand.”
Interactivity “Each click brought to the next step down the flow
chart in organism identification.”
TABLE 4. Student Ratings of the Perceived Impact of the Virtual Lab
Item Mean*SD DisagreeAgree
I would use the virtual lab again 6.7 0.7 0% 95%
Viewing procedures ahead of the hands-on lab was helpful 6.6 0.7 0% 97%
It helped me to prepare for labs 6.4 1.1 3% 91%
It played a role in completing the hands-on laboratory sessions 6.3 1.2 5% 88%
I completed the virtual lab pre-lab exercises 6.1 1.2 3% 88%
I achieved greater success in learning 6.1 1.0 2% 84%
Easier to learn new skills 6.1 1.0 0% 78%
Develop skills faster 6.1 1.1 2% 77%
*Based on 7-point Likert scale (1=strongly disagree to 7=strongly agree).
Disagree includes both disagree and strongly disagree. Agree includes both agree and strongly agree.
Open-ended comments suggested that students
valued authenticity, specifically regarding the accurate
mimicking of bacterial identification and the ability to
make and learn from genuine mistakes. The result is
consistent with Lombardi’s37 claim that authentic learn-
ing can be achieved in virtual labs, but contradicts
Scheckler’s24and Lewis’23perspectives that virtual lab-
oratories cannot embody the reality of the hands-on
laboratory. The disparity may reflect the extent to
which a virtual design is successful in matching a real-
life laboratory experience.
Previous research supports the importance of stu-
dents being able to control the learning process in vir-
tual environments.1,17 Feedback from this study indi-
cated that students appreciated the ability to learn
independently at the pace, location, and time they pre-
ferred. This result aligns with previous studies5,17 identi-
fying learning control leading to a more personalised
learning experience.
Allied health students in the medical laboratory sci-
ence program commented on three key design issues:
ease of use, helpful feedback, and layout. Students rated
ease-of-use highly, a result that is consistent with previ-
ous studies.18,21 Students also valued helpful feedback, a
finding that corroborates Chittleborough et al.’s22 claim
that immediate feedback helped improve comprehen-
sion and reflection. Finally, students appreciated the
layout of the virtual lab, noting that online procedures
closely mirrored those of the hands-on laboratory.
Scaffolded learning empower students to individu-
alise their pre-laboratory preparation19 and exposes
them to the requirements and challenges of the hands-
on laboratory.20 Most students in this study found scaf-
folded learning in the virtual lab to be helpful in com-
pleting the hands-on laboratory exercises.
Though virtual labs may overcome many of the
constraints of physical laboratories,38 they come with
inherent limitations.23 In this study, students offered
very few comments about challenges, focusing on the
same features they deemed as benefits: ease of use, nav-
igation, and learning control. This result is consistent
with the findings of Flint and Stewart21 and is partially
related to student knowledge; less knowledgeable stu-
dents appear to need more learner control to review, or
they risk experiencing cognitive overload. On the
other hand, students who are more knowledgeable may
wish to navigate ahead, skipping information they
already knew.
The virtual lab enabled students to become familiar
with tasks before hands-on laboratory sessions, conse-
quently improving performance in the hands-on labora-
tory by decreasing cognitive load and allowing students
to acquire new skills faster and easier. These findings
align with several other studies in which virtual pre-lab
exercises provided students with a better understanding
of hands-on laboratory expectations.9,18,38
This study further reported that students readily
adopted the pre-laboratory exercises without assess-
ments or other extrinsic motivational factors. This
finding contradicts the belief that students engage in
preparation only if educators use extrinsic motivation
such as grades.27Motivational factors in this study,
such as the virtual lab being an aid for preparation and
greater success, indicate that a well-designed virtual lab
can intrinsically motivate students, a finding supported
by Limniou and Whitehead.18
Several educational implications emerged from this
study for medical laboratory science and other allied
health programs. First, virtual labs can be effective learn-
ing tools within the allied health education field. Second,
these labs should be carefully designed, focusing on effec-
tive visualisation, learner control, thoughtful scaffolding,
ease of use, navigation, layout, and feedback. Finally, this
study indicated that students would use a virtual lab
without extrinsic rewards if they felt it was user-friendly
and would help them achieve greater success.
Several limitations of this study will help guide
future research labs. First, the sample size needs to be
larger to generalise the results. Second, think-aloud
data, while useful, were gleaned from only four stu-
dents. Future research should consider longer video
recordings from more students to explore the use of vir-
tual labs in more detail. Third, the Likert scale items
need to be expanded to include both benefits and chal-
lenges. A fourth limitation was that only one allied-
health program, medical laboratory science, was exam-
ined. Finally, and perhaps most important, pre-and
post-tests need to be used with control and treatment
groups to determine the actual impact on virtual labs
on learning performance.
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... The particularly high score of online students in favor of visual learning (77%) confirms previous findings regarding the pivotal role of visuals in microbiology labs [24]. These data further support Kay et al., who found that visual learning was the greatest benefit of the online lab experience [25]. While it was outside of the scope of this study's internal review board application, we noted no significant differences in aggregate quiz scores between the two groups at the completion of each lab quiz (data not shown). ...
... In our findings, it was not surprising that the online group reported access to and utilization of the lab content to be more convenient than the inperson group (Figure 2). This is in agreement with other studies' findings of student preference towards flexible schedules [2,5,24,25]. A possibility for the report of high convenience may be explained by the online students' week-long access to the lab content compared to the in-person students' limited exposure of only two pre-scheduled hours, which is in agreement with previous research [25]. ...
... This is in agreement with other studies' findings of student preference towards flexible schedules [2,5,24,25]. A possibility for the report of high convenience may be explained by the online students' week-long access to the lab content compared to the in-person students' limited exposure of only two pre-scheduled hours, which is in agreement with previous research [25]. Of interest, these Figure 5. Student perceptions of optimal mix of ideal lab teaching methods. ...
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Background: Universities are facing increased budget constraints, often resulting in reduced funds to support microbiology laboratories. Online mock laboratory activities are often instituted as a cost-effective alternative to traditional wet labs for medical students. Objective: The purpose of this study was to examine students’ perceptions of online and in-person microbiology lab learning experiences. Design: We investigated undergraduate medical student perception of the in-person and online microbiology lab experience; 164 first-year medical students participated in newly designed online labs, while 83 second-year medical students continued to use in-person labs. An online survey was administered to collect student opinions of the lab experience. Results: In terms of student self-reported learning styles, those students who attended the lab in person were more likely to report a tactile learning style (33% vs 16%) while those students who learned the material online reported a visual learning style preference (77% vs 61%; n = 264). Students felt that the online microbiology lab was more convenient for their schedules when compared to the in-person lab. A greater proportion of online students (12%) felt that they encountered brand-new material on the final quiz than in-person students (1%; n = 245). Even so, 43% of the online educated students and 37% of the in-person educated students perceived their assigned lab experiences to be the optimal lab design, and over 89% of both groups reported a desire for at least some in-person instruction in a wet-laboratory environment. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that, while students are strongly supportive of digital online lab activities, the overwhelming majority of students still report a desire for a blend of online and in-person, hands-on laboratory activities. These findings will further research directed towards student perception of the lab experience and aid in the adaptation of microbiology curriculums to accommodate both student and university needs.
... Similarly, Salter and Gardner also noted that students prefer face to face labs to online labs [12]. Another study by Kay et al. also reported 50% of the students preferred both face to face and online lab sessions [19]. Our observations, combined with those of other researchers, support the notion that most students respond better to face-to-face instruction [20]. ...
... where undergraduate students felt that online lab sessions were the same or better than face to face experience [25]. Kay et al. also suggested that online labs were more helpful than face to face labs [19]. In our study, the potential advantage that students found in online lab sessions were its effectiveness for theoretical sessions, its advantage of flexibility, elimination of time constraints, and effectiveness in the transfer of knowledge using online tools. ...
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Background The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all spheres of society including medical education and healthcare systems. In response to the pandemic, there has been a transition in medical education practice from traditional forms of teaching to online instruction delivery and virtual learning. Effective clinical microbiology education involves a combination of 'hands-on' practical learning and instructional delivery of scientific knowledge. Microbiology practical laboratories are critical learning environments offering 'hands-on' learning experiences that cannot be replicated through online learning. We conducted a mixed-methods study to understand the perception of online and face-to-face microbiology laboratory sessions among the medical students and microbiology faculty at Arabian Gulf University (AGU). Methods The study participants were third and fourth-year undergraduate medical students and faculty involved in delivering microbiology labs at AGU. The questionnaire consisted of questions ranging from perceived learning style to attitude towards online delivery of microbiology curriculum. After the questionnaire administration (google form), focus group discussion (FGD) was conducted for students and microbiology faculty separately. Results Among 168 students, 50.6% preferred face-to-face lab sessions as compared to 30.4% who preferred online labs, and 51.8% considered online labs to be an essential addition to face-to-face labs. Among the faculty, 85.7% preferred the face-to-face mode of teaching. All the faculty (100%) disagreed that all the microbiology labs teaching should be online. 57.2% considered online labs to be an essential addition to traditional face-to-face labs. Both faculty and students hold that a blended mode of instructional delivery is vital and indispensable for the transfer of skills and knowledge for microbiology students. Conclusion The blended mode of delivering microbiology laboratory sessions in medical school is successful and well-received by both students and faculty. Students take the responsibility for furthering their own learning and understanding of concepts. Instructors have also noticed that blending learning strategies also successfully enhances the development of cognitive skills and problem-solving abilities in students. A review of the microbiology lab curriculum is necessary to identify content areas that can be delivered effectively through online, face-to-face lab sessions, or both, supported with appropriate tools and infrastructure.
... The results were supported by the study of Kay et al. (2018), that virtual laboratories contained essentially all new information. Also, students had positive attitudes towards visual learning, authenticity, learner control, organization, and scaffolding afforded by the virtual lab. ...
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This study investigated the hands-on and virtual laboratory learning experiences and laboratory preference of 91 purposively selected Bachelor of Secondary Education major in Science students in performing science experiments. This study utilized descriptive-correlation research design to determine the significant difference and relationship between the variables of the study. The results gathered were treated and analyzed using t-test and Pearson's r correlation. Based on the results taken from the researchers’ designed questionnaire, the study revealed that students had positive learning experiences towards hands-on laboratory with a mean of 4.45 in terms of thinking, understanding, performing, and reasoning than in virtual laboratory with 3.43. Moreover, most of them highly preferred hands-on laboratory with a mean of 4.01 in terms of learning environment, motivation and enjoyment, stimulation of active learning, comfort, and convenience over virtual lab with 3.20. It was also found that the students’ preference was significantly different which hands-on laboratory is more preferred compare to virtual laboratory. Hence, there was a moderate correlation in learning experiences and laboratory preference in hands-on laboratory. Meanwhile, there was a strong correlation between these two variables in a virtual laboratory. As a result, students have more positive learning experiences as well as preference in hands-on compare to virtual laboratory. Therefore, laboratory facilities should be developed by educational institutions in order to supports the theoretical understanding of students in various science lessons for their lifelong learning. Keywords: Hands-on laboratory, Laboratory preference, Learning experiences, Science experiments, Virtual laboratory
... Rowe et al. (11) recorded nearly identical comments in a study that included laboratory classes in biology, chemistry, and physics. An instructional design that has been well-received by students is a blended format, where students prepare for the in-person laboratory by doing online prework that often includes a simulation or other virtual experiment (12)(13)(14)(15). ...
FREE FULL TEXT available at This paper describes how an anatomy and physiology laboratory class transitioned from a paper-based lab to an online learning platform that updated the curriculum to rely more on face-to-face small group collaboration and peer teaching. Student perceptions of the new format were positive, but halfway through the transition a global pandemic challenged the new instruction method. The face-to-face curriculum had to be adjusted to a virtual format that lacked in-person interaction between the instructor and the students. This switch to virtual labs had an adverse effect on both student perception and student performance in the second half of the semester. Our observations underscore the importance of creating an interactive community when teaching virtually.
... An emerging educational technology in training in the use of medical devices is that of virtual reality simulation (Lino et al., 2016). The benefits of virtual simulation are, for example, that it offers a cost-effective approach to providing students with sufficient preparatory information to improve their knowledge and skills, and allowing practice in dealing with incidents in a safe environment, including allowing the trainee to make mistakes (Foronda et al., 2017;Kay et al., 2018). A study conducted by Porte et al. (2018) in hospitals showed that as the risks in the use of medical devices increase, the frequency and type of training and examination are also increased and are also more extensive. ...
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Background To use advanced medical technologies (AMTs) correctly and safely requires both specialist knowledge and skills, plus an awareness of risks and how those can be minimized. Reporting safety concerns about AMTs in home care can contribute to an improved quality of care. The extent to which a health care organization has integrated the reporting, evaluation and learning from incidents is a key element of that organization’s patient safety culture. Objectives To explore nurses’ experiences regarding the education followed in the use of AMTs in the home setting, and their organizations’ systems of reporting. Design Descriptive cross-sectional design. Methods 209 home care nurses from across the Netherlands who worked with infusion therapy, parenteral nutrition and/or morphine pumps responded to the online questionnaire between July 2018-February 2019. The analysis of the data was mainly descriptive. Results Educational interventions that are most often used to learn how to use AMTs were instruction by a nurse (61-80%), practical training in the required skills (58-77%) and acquiring information to increase theoretical knowledge (59-78%). Considerable attention is paid to patient safety (86-91%) and the home setting (86-94%). However, a substantial proportion of the nurses (up to 29%) use AMTs even though they had not been tested on their skills. 95% of the respondents were well acquainted with the incident reporting protocol of their organization, but only 49% received structural or regular feedback on any actions taken as a result of event reporting. Conclusions This study revealed aspects of nurses’ education that imply risk factors for patient safety. Practical training is not always given, additional or retraining is often voluntary, and the required skills are not always tested. However, the results show that nurses do have a good awareness of patient safety. Incidents are mainly discussed within the team, but less at the organizational level.
... Following the pace of building a "smart city", building a modern and intelligent "smart campus" and providing students with better practical environment and more practical opportunities has become the goal pursued by our university [1][2] . At present, many colleges and universities are open to the laboratory construction has carried on the preliminary 2 attempt, through laboratory information management system of experimental teaching resources for centralized control, can replace the past paper office, solve the booking record easily lost, students experimental process and the difficulty of information statistics, complicated issues, make up for the deficiency existing in the traditional laboratory management, very good experiment teaching results have been achieved [3][4] . However, with the continuous expansion of teaching scale and more and more experimental courses, the demand of students for computer experiments is also increasing. ...
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The rapid development of computer technology and network bandwidth has produced unprecedented influence on the way of human learning. Along with the humanized development of computer software technology and high-level program language, experimental teaching is gradually becoming virtualized. Not only a variety of multimedia teaching courseware emerges one after another, but also a large number of virtual laboratories appear on the network. Virtual laboratory is essentially the simulation of real experiment scene, in which students should have similar experience and the same learning effect as real laboratory. Therefore, the virtual laboratory should be able to satisfy the students to carry out autonomous exploratory operation. The purpose of this paper is to study the open computer network virtual laboratory based on big data technology. This paper first introduces the meaning of big data technology, then studies the content of video decoding technology, and then introduces the definition scope and characteristics of virtual reality technology. This paper designs and implements VR open computer network virtual laboratory based on big data technology. The test results show that the system designed in this paper has good performance. The CPU consumption rate of the system server designed in this paper only accounts for 4.5%.
... However, studies show that students in science and engineering programs tend to do well with visual, inductive, active, and global learning methods [3] [4]. An approach that has been proposed and analyzed in several studies involve the use of setting up virtual laboratory facilities [5] [6]. Though, this is useful mainly in remote teaching applications, the authors believe that this is not an immediate solution for the knowledge gap observed in the courses in this study. ...
Based on the background and expertise gained during almost two decades of development and implementation of virtual laboratory applications for teaching mechanics in engineering faculties, the authors propose a novel approach for this field, in which students themselves become developers of educational computer simulations. The method, called DYOVL (“Do Your Own Virtual Laboratory”), was applied, first experimentally and then on a regular basis, with gradual optimization during consecutive years, within the practical sessions of the mechanics course taught to students in automatic control and computers. An educational website, containing application examples and several downloadable resources, was recently developed, to assist teaching by the new method. The co‐creative character of this process is manifold, as students work together with the teaching staff and with their team colleagues to program virtual laboratory applications or to suggest improvements for the existing ones. The method demonstrated favorable outcomes in terms of engagement, motivation, and inclusiveness, as well as a positive attitude of the students, shown both by pre‐ and during‐COVID satisfaction surveys. To assist potentially interested academic staff in implementing this approach in their universities, detailed methodological guidance is provided.
Universities and colleges worldwide have been closed following the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and online learning has become an educational practice at once. Previous research showed many problems, including time management difficulties, technological devices, communication, engagement and assessment of students for both educators and students in online education. This research was formulated to understand whether online microbiology courses from different Saudi Universities are appropriate. It was a nationwide cross-sectional study among educators from multiple Saudi Arabian Universities during the whole month of June 2020. We distributed the survey link electronically through messages on the phone. A total of 134 Saudis participated in the study, and the majority of the respondents, i.e., 106 (79.10%) are between 36 to 55 years old, 17 (12.69%) are 56 years and above. A total of 65 (48.51%) respondents responded that shifting from in-classroom to online setup has impacted the teaching-learning process negatively, while 43 (32.09%) responded with a positive impact. The majority of the respondents (82%) disagreed that practical learning outcomes such as laboratory-based microbiology courses can be achieved online at the same level as regular-campus classes.Furthermore, more than half of the participants think that students' dishonesty or violation of academic integrity threatens institutions from offering online courses. Technology tools have brought a positive impact on the effectiveness of online microbiology education. This study illustrated that the shift to online microbiology classes has a positive impact on attention to academic integrity. However, in-person labs are still considered the optimal lab design. While pandemics have historically generated difficulties, recognizing these difficulties is the first step in turning them into possibilities.
Objective: In medical laboratory science, there is a need to enhance the clinical learning curriculum beyond laboratory skill and diagnostic interpretation competency. Incorporating simulation presents an opportunity to train and produce medical laboratory scientists with the skills to communicate and work effectively in an interprofessional healthcare team. Methods: A scoping review was performed to (i) understand the landscape of research literature on medical laboratory science and simulation and (ii) provide a path for future research directions. The International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning Standards of Best Practice: Simulation were used as a guiding framework for literature that described simulation activities. Results: Out of 439 articles from multiple databases, 32 were eligible for inclusion into this review. Of the 14 articles that described a simulation activity, only 3 described or partially described each component of the best practice criteria for simulation. Articles that did not describe the design and implementation of simulation (n = 18) consisted of 7 opinion-based papers, 4 narrative reviews, 5 case reports, and 2 empirical papers. Conclusion: Despite increases in medical laboratory science with simulation, there is a need for more detailed empirical studies, more studies with an interprofessional context, and more methodological rigor.
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The authors provide an introduction to e-learning and its role in medical education by outlining key terms, the components of e-learning, the evidence for its effectiveness, faculty development needs for implementation, evaluation strategies for e-learning and its technology, and how e-learning might be considered evidence of academic scholarship. E-learning is the use of Internet technologies to enhance knowledge and performance. E-learning technologies offer learners control over content, learning sequence, pace of learning, time, and often media, allowing them to tailor their experiences to meet their personal learning objectives. In diverse medical education contexts, e-learning appears to be at least as effective as traditional instructor-led methods such as lectures. Students do not see e-learning as replacing traditional instructor-led training but as a complement to it, forming part of a blended-learning strategy. A developing infrastructure to support e-learning within medical education includes repositories, or digital libraries, to manage access to e-learning materials, consensus on technical standardization, and methods for peer review of these resources. E-learning presents numerous research opportunities for faculty, along with continuing challenges for documenting scholarship. Innovations in e-learning technologies point toward a revolution in education, allowing learning to be individualized (adaptive learning), enhancing learners' interactions with others (collaborative learning), and transforming the role of the teacher. The integration of e-learning into medical education can catalyze the shift toward applying adult learning theory, where educators will no longer serve mainly as the distributors of content, but will become more involved as facilitators of learning and assessors of competency.
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Students who are well prepared for laboratory classes are more likely to successfully acquire laboratory skills and gain the maximum possible benefit from the laboratory learning environment. To facilitate effective student preparation and improve their learning outcomes, we have designed and developed an online resource centre. These resources are used by students in conjunction with traditional resources including the laboratory manual prior to attendance in laboratories. Resources comprise a series of web based activities including visual and audio presentations, pre-laboratory questions and quizzes related to the laboratory activities that the students will complete. To determine how effective these resources were in facilitating laboratory preparation, students were surveyed both before and after the introduction of the resources. Surveys were designed to establish student perceptions regarding their preparatory practices. In addition, the effect on some measurable learning outcomes was established. This paper reports on how the implementation of this blended learning approach has improved the nature of student preparation practices. Presenting information in a flexible learning format, prior to participation, enhanced student familiarisation with theoretical and experimental procedures. Thus facilitated preparation reduced the potential risk of cognitive dissonance by improving student organisational abilities which in turn lead to better experimental learning outcomes and value-added student perception of the laboratory experience as a whole.
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Effective preparation prior to a practical class is essential if meaningful learning is to occur. If effective preparation does not occur, then students are at risk of "information overload" as they attempt simultaneously to come to terms with novel technical or manipulative tasks as well as learning new concepts. We designed on-line multi-media pre-laboratory exercises (Pre-labs) to support dissection-based practicals in a first year biology unit. The aim of this study was to gauge the effectiveness of the Pre-labs in improving students' perceptions of their preparedness for practical classes. We surveyed the students before and after introduction of the Pre-labs, and monitored use of the Pre-labs on the class on-line learning site. The surveys showed that 68% of students reported they like to "see or be shown what to do". In the initial survey, only 15% of students reported doing a substantial amount of preparation for practical classes. However, the majority of students used the "visual" Pre-labs regularly, and reported finding them "very useful" in preparing them for the practical class, and 47 % (compared with an initial 22.4%) reported being well-prepared for class. Better preparation should lead to enhanced learning outcomes for students as well as better meeting ethical guidelines for instructors designing practicals based on animal specimens.
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This study uses an action research approach to investigate how different modes of pre-laboratory preparation contribute towards a fruitful laboratory experience for first year students on an access programme. We considered the experience to be fruitful if the students successfully acquired procedural understanding, communicative competence and were able to apply the conceptual understanding to make the purpose of the labs meaningful. A group of students was observed by participant observers during 1996. Data was gathered during laboratory sessions and from written pre-laboratory work. These data were analysed and changes were instituted in the running and conceptualization of the laboratory in the subsequent year. A group of students was again observed and data collected. Two important factors emerged from the analysis of the data. One finding was the importance of adequate student preparation for the laboratories, regardless of the mode of preparation employed. Another was that the ability to prepare depended on the conceptual and procedural understanding of the laboratory as a whole. Preparedness is also important if conceptual benefit is to be obtained from the practical experience.
Practical skills are important for the employability of biosciences graduates; however, first year science undergraduates often struggle to adapt to university practical classes, affecting skills development and decreasing their enthusiasm for laboratory work. This study describes the effects of introducing online multimedia practical support resources on biochemistry and biological sciences on first year student performance, and investigates student usage and student opinion of the value of these resources. In total, 391 students used these resources over a three-period. Information was collated on their completion of preparation tasks and module performance. Student opinion was sought using questionnaires with opportunity for free comment. Engagement with preparation tasks affected student performance in practical modules. Student’s t-tests showed a significant difference between the performances of highly engaged, engaged and poorly engaged students, with higher engagement leading to improved performance. Student opinion was sought twice, in 2010–11 and 2012–13. Resources were well used, and students found the resources helpful in understanding the theoretical basis of practical work and how to undertake experiments; they enjoyed practical classes and felt that the preparation resources increased their confidence. Multimedia practical preparation resources are valuable in helping students to manage the transition from school to university practical work in biosciences.
Compulsory online pre-laboratory exercises were required of non-major, first-year university chemistry students in response to poor student preparation for laboratory sessions. The online pre-laboratory exercises were designed to be straightforward, endeavoring to help students maximize the benefits of the introductory laboratory class. Diagrams and pictures were included in the exercises to improve descriptions. Students were allowed multiple attempts with immediate feedback provided to help them learn from their mistakes. The study is a descriptive account of students' perceptions of the impact of online pre-laboratory exercises on their learning. Students recognized the value of the exercises in improving their organization, their preparedness for the laboratory class, and their understanding of the chemistry concepts of the weekly experiments. The increased flexibility of doing pre-laboratory exercises online and the increased feedback to students were two important aspects of this project that nearly all students recognized as being beneficial to their learning.
A number of organizational and teaching aspects of first‐year university chemistry practicals in England and Wales have been studied. The practical classes consist, as a rule, of a series of discipline‐bound courses, sometimes preceded by a general techniques course. The assessment is almost entirely based on outcomes: quality and quantity of products and reports. The practical manuals are not always clear as far as experimental descriptions, requirements for students and assessment criteria are concerned. Only half of the universities studied use computers as part of their practical teaching programmes. Innovations in practicals mentioned in literature only gradually seeped into first‐year classes. However, there was evidence of some refreshing ideas for practical work.
An age-old problem of laboratory instruction is finding a way to get students to prepare before coming to lab. Recently one of the authors (MP) has advocated “free form preparation”.The students may prepare their lab notebooks in any way whatever, subject only to the constraint that the lab manual not be brought into the room (1-4). Potentially this idea is a simple solution to the nagging problem of student preparation. However, there is still real skepticism about this idea, which has been tried only at the college level in very few courses. This paper will examine what happens when this style of preparation is extended to a high school lab.