Article 2: Hybrid learning for undergraduate students

Title: Designing Blended Inquiry Learning in a Laboratory Context: A Study of Incorporating Hands-On and Virtual Laboratories.

Author: Eva Erdosne Toth, Becky L. Morrow and Lisa R. Ludvico

Journal: Innovative Higher Education

Publication date: 2009

This quarter I have been learning about theories of teaching and learning, and a question that came up was “how would you design your ideal classroom?” With all the technological innovations that I’ve learned about in Internet for Educators, I definitely want to integrate some sort of digital component into my ideal classroom. The paper I’m reviewing today is a case study on the use of virtual laboratories in addition to regular, hands-on laboratory work; I have toyed with the idea of implementing this environment for some time.

Toth, Morrow and Ludvico identify a common problem in teaching biological sciences: experiments are often carried out in order to learn experimental protocols, but do nothing to support student’s “active, inquiry-based discovery”. They define inquiry-based discovery as a learning experience based on building essential scientific skills: asking questions, using evidence to address these questions, connecting the answers to prior knowledge, and communicating the results to the community. The goal of their study was to determine if the combination of hands-on and virtual labs would provide these learning benefits.

It turns out that the virtual lab had students focus on the specific mechanism of the experiment, allowing them to internalize the knowledge without any external variables affecting the core of the process. On the other hand, the hands-on lab allowed the students to refine their manual skills, measuring skills, and practical reasoning through troubleshooting. The students commented that they enjoyed the virtual lab’s ease, speed, and illustrative nature; and they preferred to complete the virtual lab before the hands-on lab.

Hybrid learning is based on many of the NETS standards. The environment helped students explore a real-world issue and improved students’ conceptual understanding of the material (NETS-T 1) thanks to the digital experience of the laboratory (NETS-T 2). The instructor exhibited fluency in digital tools that support student success (NETS-T 3). The instructor improved their own practice, and this study can be used as a model for future classes, so it is contributing to the effectiveness of the teaching profession (NETS-T 6). This article is a perfect example of why a blended environment is ideal for advancing learning in the digital age.


Toth, E., Morrow, B. L., & Ludvico, L. R. (2009). Designing Blended Inquiry Learning in a Laboratory Context: A Study of Incorporating Hands-On and Virtual Laboratories. Innovative Higher Education, 33(5), 333-344.


About Lily F.M.

Graduate student trying to learn as much as I can!

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