Science instructors who teach online shouldn’t feel that they have to abandon traditional hands-on science experiments. The Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) website archives a variety of simulations that can mimic the experience of doing chemistry, biology or physics experiments and activities in the face-to-face classroom.
Online Chemistry Labs
The Virtual Chemistry Laboratory was created at Carnegie Mellon University. In this online laboratory, students can still do chemistry experiments designed by their instructors without the luxury of being in a physical laboratory. Using the site’s built-in computer application, students may virtually mix chemicals to produce reactions for a variety of experiments. A teacher’s companion guide is also available, offering suggestions regarding assignments and experiments that students can do in the virtual lab.
The MERLOT site not only offers students the opportunity to “mix” chemicals. Students can do experiments measuring the relationships between gas pressure and volume with the Ideal Gas Law Simulation, developed at Oklahoma State’s Department of Chemistry. Based on parameters defined by individual instructors, students can use the scroll bars on the simulator to manipulate gas pressure, gas volume, moles of gas and temperature in Kelvin units.
Biology Activities Online
The MERLOT site also archives biology experiments. For example, in a natural selection simulation developed at the University of Wisconsin, students can pretend to be both predators and observers of moths on a tree trunk.
According to the MERLOT description, students who engage in this microevolution lab: “1) collect data by ‘eating’ moths; 2) calculate gene frequencies for each phenotype over three generations; 3) interpret graphs of data their data to determine if microevolution occurred; and 4) explain how selection acts on populations.”
Online Physics Activities
Those who teach physics can also find activities available online. Developed at the University of Basel, The Pendulum Lab allows students to conduct experiments using a virtual pendulum. According to information on the MERLOT website, students “can learn basic issues like harmonic oscillator and resonance but also advanced topics like parametric resonance, nonlinear dynamics, and chaos.”
Students can do five types of pendulum-based experiments in the lab: an undamped and undriven pendulum, a pendulum driven by a sinusoidal force, a horizontally driven pendulum, a vertically driven pendulum and a pendulum with a rotating suspension point.
Teaching science online doesn’t mean giving up lab activities and experiments. With just a few easy searches on the MERLOT website, instructors can find a range of online activities and simulations that can recreate a laboratory experience for both online and face-to-face students.
For additional information on these and other virtual science activities, teachers should check out the MERLOT website, which archives not only science simulations, but also a variety of online activities across many disciplines.