Online laboratory simulations as a pedagogy to reduce anxiety and build confidence for student success

Seth N Racey, Rayan Akladi, Lydia W. Williams, Lauren Olley, Stuart Goodall, Kirsten McCartney-Bulmer, Stephany Veuger

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The pivot to blended learning in the post-COVID-19 higher education environment has led to the increased adoption of virtual online laboratories as a mechanism for ensuring that students attain learning outcomes. The fostering of knowledge acquisition and simulation of the practical skills required for laboratory-based disciplines is well established. In this study, we used grounded theory with students as partners to co-create interviews and surveys. The aim of the surveys and interviews was to capture the student experiences and perceptions of the use of virtual online simulations in their studies. A cohort of over 1000 students use virtual online simulations in their programme of study. Of this cohort, approximately 150 students who use the simulations to support practical skills-based aspects of their module assessments were invited to undertake interviews and questionnaires. The online virtual simulations of key scientific techniques were embedded in the virtual learning environment. A common theme that arose through surveys and coding of interview transcripts was that students used virtual simulation as a way of regulating the anxiety they felt towards face-to-face laboratory teaching. Whilst knowledge and skill acquisition are the major focus of university assessment, the self-regulation of anxiety felt by students is a major predictor of success, and this key finding is an under-studied and under-appreciated aspect of the use of virtual online simulations. Virtual online simulations offer a solution to both of these paradigms. They may be sought out by students who see the need to enhance their self-efficacy, and this may go some way to reducing awarding gaps and supporting widening participation in the university student body.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-130
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Applied Learning and Teaching
Issue numberSpecial Issue 1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2024

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