Development of flexible experiential learning exercises to deliver online practical teaching

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


With increasing student numbers and timetable constraints, there is a limited capacity to engage students in laboratory exercises. Furthermore, certain key protocols are not feasible due to costs and the length of time they take to complete. Most practical classes are procedural in nature, with a strong decision making element woven through. These decisions at key points in the protocol influence the outcome and so provide directed stages for assessment and feedback. This project showcases the development and use of visual, interactive practical simulations to address these challenges.

Using an online assessment software package, practical procedures were mapped as a series of steps, instructions and questions where students move through the protocol, making decisions and answering questions learning how their actions influence the the experiment. Each decision is linked to feedback branches and loops to develop an understanding of the procedure. These approaches have been used to equip students with working experience of Western blotting, standard curves, serial dilution and cell culture in a safe, cost free environment, where learning and experience is enriched in a risk free, sustainable way.

The extremely high level of student engagement (when exercises available as a non-compulsory link in the virtual learning environment) is presented in Table 1 demonstrating that these different exercises were engaged with multiple times by individuals across the whole cohort. The impact on the student experience was evaluated in the student feedback survey exercise and Table 2 shows the overwhelmingly positive reception across the cohort for all of these exercises.

Flexibility of these tools is evidenced by embedding them in:

- UG courses (preparation around core laboratory skills)
- PGT courses (transitional support for students with varying practical skills)
- PGR training prior to work with specific protocols
- online courses and distance learning modules

The design is simple, adaptable and innovative. It creates solutions for many educational challenges, and has been very positively received by the students. Furthermore, students across the breadth of the test cohort engaged with these simulations despite them not being a compulsory part of the taught materials. Finally, the flexibility means this approach can be readily used across a range of subject areas in life science.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019
EventPhysiology 2019 - Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre, Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Duration: 8 Jul 201910 Jul 2019


ConferencePhysiology 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


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