Curtin Foundation students learn with virtual lab simulator

Labster’s 3D virtual chemistry laboratory, where students can virtually pick up the pipette.

MIRI: To ensure its Foundation in Engineering and Science students get the most out of their one-year course leading to their undergraduate degrees, the Faculty of Engineering and Science at Curtin University Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia) is introducing the use of Labster, a virtual laboratory simulator.

Labster is the world’s leading provider of virtual science labs, providing access to over 2,000 institutions and over three million students around the world.

It has a menu of over 150 virtual labs introducing students to subjects ranging from biology and chemistry to microbiology and physiology and more.

Students will be able to use Labster as a learning tool at their own pace, and in their own time. The system also uses gamification and storytelling approaches to engage students in course materials. Lecturers can track student activity, allowing for intervention and support as necessary.

Furthermore, Labster provides students with virtual versions of lab practicals to use beforehand, teaching them the techniques, skills, processes, protocols and underlying theory.

Theories are reinforced during lab experiments.

Students can learn from trial and error in the virtual lab, just as they would in a physical lab, and as Labster gives students access to a wide range of lab equipment, they will also get the feel of equipment found in physical labs.

“In the current online learning environment, we have to ensure our students can continue effective learning and Labster will prove very useful in their learning.

“We continue to invest quite substantially in new technology and teaching methods aimed at creating a stimulating and seamless learning environment between the physical and virtual environments,” said Faculty of Engineering and Science dean Prof Tuong-Thuy Vu.

Prof Tuong added that lab tutorials and demonstrations by lecturers are presently also streamed live or pre-recorded for students.

These methods are likely to be transferred to a hybrid mode of teaching as the campus gradually reopens, enabling both students on-campus and those yet to return and still attending classes remotely to study simultaneously.

Chiong working on the Labster lab simulator.

Dr Raymond Chiong, head of the Department of Foundation in Engineering and Science, said the Labster system would be integrated into Moodle, the Learning Management System (LMS) used by Curtin, making it a seamless extension of the existing online learning systems and learning resources.

“We will be using Labster extensively in our Foundation in Engineering and Science course in the new semester, specifically for the Chemistry for Engineers, Physics for Engineers and Human Biology units, which are the core foundation units for our undergraduate engineering and science courses.”

Meanwhile, lecturer Dr Evelyn Chiong, who is the unit coordinator and lecturer for the Physics for Engineers units, said Labster would be of great help to the students, giving them the means to improve their conceptual understanding experimentally via real-life scenarios and simulations.

“Virtual lab simulators are accessible anytime, anywhere with basically a laptop or mobile device with Internet connection, so students have the flexibility to try out the simulations at their own pace and in their own time.”

Curtin Malaysia’s foundation programmes in Engineering and Science, Commerce and Arts are designed for school-leavers to gain the essential skills and knowledge for a smooth transition to tertiary study, providing the best possible fundamentals to undertake a Bachelor’s degree.

Students who pass the Foundation Studies in Engineering and Science can enter the Bachelor of Engineering, Bachelor of Technology, Bachelor of Applied Science, Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Computing programmes. They are also eligible to enrol in the Bachelor of Communications, Bachelor of Business Administration, and Bachelor of Commerce programmes.

For more information on courses at Curtin Malaysia, visit courses.curtin.edu.my or send email to enquiries@curtin.edu.my. The mid-year intakes for both foundation and undergraduate courses are now open.

Students can collect experimental data virtually.