Virtual science labs where students never touch a beaker, Bunsen burner or pithed frog, are becoming a common way for students to learn science. Online labs are cheaper than setting up labs in small schools and provide a wider range of experiments. But do students learn as much in online labs? From the New York Times:
When the Internet was just beginning to shake up American education, a chemistry professor photographed thousands of test tubes holding molecular solutions and, working with video game designers, created a simulated laboratory that allowed students to mix chemicals in virtual beakers and watch the reactions.
. . . In the years since, that virtual chemistry laboratory — as well as other simulations allowing students to dissect virtual animals or to peer into tidal pools in search of virtual anemone — has become a widely used science teaching tool. The virtual chemistry laboratory alone has some 150,000 students seated at computer terminals around the country to try experiments that would be too costly or dangerous to do at their local high schools.
But some say students need hands-on work to learn science. The College Board denies Advanced Placement status to classes with no-hands labs, but is reconsidering that decision. Online students have higher pass scores on the AP exam than students who’ve experienced hands-on labs. Online students may be more motivated to study science, however.