Thursday, September 6, 2012

In Addition to Wet Labs: Three Benefits of E-labs that Feature Technologies Not Available in Teaching Labs 

A scientist prepares a sample for imaging.
In high school and college life science courses, wet labs are the gold standard for student inquiry.  Students learn basic science process and data collection techniques that are used in analytical and basic science labs worldwide.

To most faculty members, online laboratories are another species all together.

Some faculty members may avoid using online labs because they typically only simulate experiences that  students can gain from hands-on labs. Transfer of skills from an online environment to real-life situations may be questionable. For instance, few patients would want to go under the knife of a surgeon who had only practiced surgeries in an online environment!

Online laboratories (e-labs) that feature 21st-century technologies that are typically unavailable in teaching laboratories offer a different kind of opportunity. In such labs, students get to apprentice with data collection and analysis techniques that involve human subjects studies, animal research, and/or employ expensive data collection technologies and software.

A good example of such an activity is Science Approach's Mapping the Yeast Mitotic Spindle e-lab. Designed to supplement a high school science course, students conducting the e-lab use images captured by an electron microscope and digitally compiled into a three-dimensional volume (called a tomogram). Using a specially constructed data analysis tool, students review the process of mitosis and study the role spindle microtubules play as they align and separate the cell's genetic material.

By working through the e-lab, students:
  1. learn current methods scientists use to study internal cellular processes;
  2. manipulate a model created by a scientist and retrieve data from that model; and
  3. learn how data retrieved from a model can be analyzed to postulate how an important cellular process works.
Learn more about Mapping the Yeast Mitotic Spindle by viewing this Webinar recording.


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