This study assessed the perception of online virtual laboratories from students and departmental faculty involved with the undergraduate biology curriculum at Ryerson University. The purpose was to evaluate the demand behind alternative methods of learning experimental skills, and to understand why students and educators may perceive alternative methods as desirable, undesirable or ineffectual. Some of the factors examined were hours of student employment, commute time, and access to/comfort with technology. Opinions from students who had completed, or were in the process of completing the entry level biology course were surveyed, and interviews of the student survey participants, program directors were performed. Most students were in favour of a virtual lab component, citing commute time as the main factor considered when they elected to enroll in a virtual lab. Faculty interviews highlighted the perceived advantages and disadvantages of virtual labs, noting the teaching of laboratory safety skills as a primary disadvantage to completely virtual labs. With suitable modifications,
or as a complementary resource, a virtual lab could be used effectively to deliver knowledge and research skills comparable to that acquired in a physical laboratory.

Published in: World Congress on Education (WCE-2018)

  • Date of Conference: 15-18 July 2018
  • DOI: 10.2053/WCE.2018.0014
  • ISBN: 978-1-908320-91-9
  • Conference Location: Dublin, Ireland