Curtin Foundation students learn with Labster, a virtual lab simulator

Miri – 14 July 2021 – To ensure its Foundation in Engineering and Science students get the most out of their one-year course leading to their undergraduate degrees, particularly in the current online learning environment, the Faculty of Engineering and Science at Curtin University Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia) is introducing the use of Labster, a virtual laboratory simulator, for the teaching of its foundation students in the new semester.

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. With a menu of over 150 virtual labs introducing students to subjects ranging from biology and chemistry to microbiology and physiology and more, the system is ideal for Foundation in Engineering and Science students at Curtin Malaysia.

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. 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.

“Quality and innovation are key to the design and delivery of each of our courses, and to stay relevant in today’s fast-evolving higher education sector, we are always seeking to introduce new and innovative ways of learning and teaching to prepare our students for the future world of work,” said Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Science, Professor Tuong-Thuy Vu.

“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.”

Professor Thuy 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.

Dr. Raymond Chiong, Head of the Department of Foundation in Engineering and Science, said the Labster system will 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,” said Dr. Chiong.

According to Dr. Chiong, laboratory experiments are crucial to engineering and science courses as they reinforce and complement the theories taught in class. However, during the current pandemic where physical laboratory sessions are not possible, virtual lab simulators can be just as effective in the course to give students to that much-needed practical experience.

Meanwhile, lecturer Dr. Evelyn Chiong, who is the unit coordinator and lecturer for the Physics for Engineers units, said that 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,” she said.

She said the simulations will also allow them to change variables and make mistakes without causing any real harm, thus enabling them to explore to a wider extent. With each topic, there will also be theories and quiz questions provided, which students can read and attempt before conducting their simulations.

“Labster will definitely enhance the students’ learning in a more interesting and engaging way,” she concluded.

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. The programmes feed directly into undergraduate courses in engineering and science, business and humanities, which are identical to those at Curtin University’s main campus in Perth but at affordable Malaysian fees. All are recognised by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).

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.

Many of the undergraduate courses are world-ranked in the global subject rankings, such as the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2022, ShanghaiRanking’s Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2021 and Times Higher Education World University Rankings by Subject 2021.Curtin is currently ranked among the top 200 universities in the world in the QS World University Rankings (QSWUR) 2022 and is only one of three universities in Australia to achieve the QS Five Stars Plus rating.

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

Theories are reinforced during lab experiments.

Students can collect experimental data virtually.

Dr Evelyn Chiong working on the Labster lab simulator.

 

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