Personalisation – the missing link in virtual labs

Virtual labs offer many benefits to students and teachers alike: they minimise hazards and enable students to attempt the experiments multiple times, until they get it right. Some labs are only possible in the virtual world, such as testing the functions of a nuclear power plant or certain dissection labs in biology. Meanwhile, time and geographical limitations do not apply at all, and resources can easily be shared between institutions. Educators benefit from the automatic marking and reduced lab management, while students are engaged with the learning experience, developing their critical thinking, innovative and team working skills.

In virtual labs learning is inquiry-based, peer-assisted and places the student at the centre of the experience. However, students still need structure and guidance in order to ensure the best possible learning experience. One important aspect of virtual labs, that is possible to include but often lacking in practise, is personalisation. Personalisation as an educational concept is becoming increasingly important, and it is widely recognised that in learning, one size does not fit all. Adding a layer of personalisation to virtual labs takes into these aspects into consideration, and allows students to proceed at their own pace. Especially slower learners can benefit from the potential personalisation has to offer. Fast learners are suitably challenged, and those who require more time, are given it, with sufficient support.

As discussed in Lynch and Ghergulescu (2016), few current virtual labs incorporate personalisation in their design. NEWTON virtual labs will incorporate personalisation to ensure all students will have the best possible learning experience, and take into consideration the specific needs of each learner to maximise the benefits of each learning session.


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