Across the globe, all eyes are on remote solutions—opportunities for working and learning from home, connecting with colleagues and staying productive wherever one may be. One of the most impactful opportunities for students and scientists looking to learn remotely, during these uncertain times and long after, is the virtual lab.
What makes this online experience so rewarding for students, scientists and educators alike? Just read on to discover three key advantages of the virtual lab today.
Remote access when it matters most
It is not surprising that students, institutions and a wide variety of industries are discovering the benefits of virtual labs and online learning as the world navigates COVID-19. With the help of virtual labs, students can safely learn essential scientific principles from the comfort and safety of their own homes. However, the benefits of virtual labs’ remote access are relevant at all times, even when more traditional school and work schedules return. Now, being out of town, under the weather or otherwise unable to make it to a lab facility does not have to prevent a student from conducting experiments with long-lasting results.
With so much of the world continuing to move online, it is only fitting that the lab environment find a home here, too. By embracing virtual labs, institutions can serve their role in the scientific community in an especially meaningful way—and as all scientists search for ways to make the field and STEM as a whole more accessible, this is an excellent place to start.
Controlled environment with reproducible results
All scientists know the importance of control in a lab environment. When performing an experiment, special care must be taken to ensure that the physical traits of one’s lab environment (from the local weather and temperature/humidity levels, to natural human error, to unknown inconsistencies in your test samples) do not impact in the results. Control groups exist to limit the adverse effects of confounding variables, but can not completely ensure a truly controlled environment—or that a scientist in another part of the globe could replicate the results. To help uphold these basic scientific principles, and ensure that the true integrity of the controlled lab environment is embraced as much as possible, a virtual lab may be used for the most confident results.
Cost-effective cutting edge
Virtual labs also help institutions streamline operational costs—such as the price of operating a lab facility, or the cost of materials—without sacrificing students’ education. While there is no true replacement for the physical lab experience, virtual labs help institutions supplement their current lab setup with online opportunities that help educate more students even when physical resources are cost-prohibitive. Students can safely and confidently learn by trial and error without those “errors” adding up to expensive material replacements and other potentially cost-prohibitive outcomes.
Virtual labs are especially advantageous during a time when the world is asked to stay safe at home—but long beyond this current societal need, they will continue to flourish as a means of making lab research more accessible to an ever-growing group of scientists.