Sault College

Project Description

Sault College participated in the Labster Virtual Simulations Project because of the opportunity to evaluate the Labster simulations. Specifically, the simulations were evaluated as a potential solution to physical resource challenges that impact our delivery of the Pre-Health Sciences (PHS) program. Additionally, the simulations were evaluated on how well suited they are to online course delivery.

Sault College set out on this project with three primary goals:

  1. Determine the suitability of Labster virtual simulations as a supplemental tool or replacement for chemistry laboratory exercises attached to the chemistry courses within PHS.
  2. Determine the suitability of Labster virtual simulations as a supplemental tool to provide biology laboratory exercises that are otherwise unavailable in the biology courses within the PHS, due to a lack of biology laboratory access.
  3. Determine the suitability of Labster virtual simulations as the laboratory substitute for a potential online delivery of the PHS.

The project was not a full success as we did not get the level of participation as planned. The work stoppage was the primary contributing factor for this. The courses where the Labster simulations were used or intended for use were all impacted by condensed total teaching time secondary to the strike. As a result, we only used the simulations in one of the chemistry courses. The students did provide feedback through a survey, and the chemistry professor provided a great deal of constructive feedback.

Team Description

Bob Chapman, chair of Health Programs:

  • Led the project at Sault College.
  • Worked with the professors in getting the Labster access and needed IT upgrades, and in providing the objectives of the project.
  • Worked with project liaison, Emma Durand of Labster.
  • Developed a survey to elicit student feedback.
  • Participated in the meetings/webinars with eCampusOntario and Labster and submitted all necessary reports to eCampusOntario.
  • Completed certain Labster Virtual Simulations.

Christine Giardino, chemistry professor:

  • Completed the Labster Virtual Simulations that best related to course outcomes of PHS CHM191.
  • Had students complete three of the Labster virtual simulations for CHN191 (Acids and Bases, Equilibrium, and Titration).
  • Facilitated an end-of-semester feedback survey to students.
  • Provided concise feedback from an instructor perspective.
  • Participated in the final webinar on May 10, 2018.

Leslie Dafoe, biology professor. Pre-Health Sciences Program Coordinator:

  • Completed the Labster Virtual Simulations that best related to course outcomes of the PHS BlOtQO course. (Further participation in the project was limited because of a leave of absence.)

Integration Details

Christine Giardino provided the integration details. (Please see Appendix E.)

User Experience

Christine Giardino was the only educator to use the virtual labs during the 2017–18 academic year. She used three different chemistry virtual labs in a weekly format. The virtual tabs were used in a supplemental leaning capacity where the students were instructed to complete the virtual lab prior to completing the corresponding in-lab exercises. A number of students did report technical difficulties, which may have arisen because of the software or Windows version installed on their computers. Both desktop and laptop computers were impacted; however, the educator never had an issue with her own laptop. The technical issues were generally resolved with the trial of a different computer or computer lab. Some virtual labs would work but would not display the on-screen buttons/tabs appropriately.

The following is the feedback provided by Christine Giardino during our March 9, 2018, meeting and the May 11, 2018, webinar.

  • Overall, the virtual labs are beneficial as supplemental learning tools. Christine used the virtual labs to “flip” the classroom and would consider use as out-of-class assignments for future. However, she firmly believes that the virtual labs do not sufficiently replace the lab exercises in her course.
  • She felt that the virtual labs would be worthwhile to continue depending on the cost to the student or college.

Christine also provided a list of concerns:

  • There was clear evidence that students retained the information after doing the simulation.
  • Simulations do not involve measurements or data collection.
  • Students do not have to make decisions, observations, or perform calculations.
  • Students do not have to select appropriate equipment or chemicals.
  • Multiple choice questions are the only form of assessment.
  • Simulations seemed to lag and not all of the buttons were accessible on certain computers.
  • Students achieved higher marks on the simulations than on similar lab exercises. However, this is not necessarily because they understood the content better (they were doing the simulation first, followed by the lab, therefore the opposite would be expected).
  • With respect to the positive survey results, I suspect that several students selected “agree” because of the simulations are easier than lab activities and lead to higher marks.

Value

A survey was administered to students in paper form after all the simulations had been completed. The completed surveys were then entered into SurveyMonkey for easier data analysis. There were only 17 survey participants (this is reflective of the significant program attrition secondary to the work stoppage). The results were generally positive and almost  two-thirds revealed a willingness to pay for use of the simulations. Bob Chapman and Christine Giardino reviewed and discussed the survey results.

Please use the following hyperlink to view the survey results:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM—BTWZGW5RL/

Future Plans

This final report will be shared with the vice president of academics to determine the future use of Labster at Sault College. The college is planning to participate in an additional project that uses the Labster simulations in the biology courses in the PHS program. This represents an opportunity to gather data that we missed out on with this project.

The college is working diligently to expand online course delivery and virtual simulations, such as those from Labster, which are essential to this development.

Our academic team will review and discuss how to best use these simulations for future use and determine how best to fund them. Labster has a product capable of driving student demand and our goal is to have the simulations in place to meet the student demands on time instead of retrospectively. The sustainability piece is a priority.

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

  • Labster offers a fantastic product and I expect their virtual simulations to improve as they expand. The type of simulation offered by Labster is essential to online delivery of courses with a laboratory or practical component.
  • Planning is important and time is needed to review the simulations and trial them in advance of full integration. 1 recommend participation in a project such as this to begin that initial phase of integration in a cost-effective manner. In addition to the work stoppage, the time at which we started this project occurred after teaching plans were made and required simulation review and course integration during the semester. Ideally, the onset of a project such as this should begin in the primary planning period for the involved faculty (May and June at our college). This will likely provide more robust results in the level of assessment and integration.