Virtual Experiments

Supplementing Labs

Virtual Experiments can offer huge added value as warm-ups to experiments, or when equipment is scarce, dangerous or expensive

Greater Flexability

Virtual Experiments can be embedded on most web pages or within a VLE such as blackboard and offer simultaneous whole-class access 24/7

Refining Techniques

Virtual Experiments enable students to develop a deeper understanding of the practical skills within a laboratory environment

More information

Please have a look at our Virtual Experiment Guidance Notes PDF for further information

We have also written Virtual Experiment Manual as a good practice guide.

I would like to commission a VE for my laboratory. What considerations need to be made before development can start?

A VE is produced from a recording of the experiments, usually as stills, which is then coded so that the user can manipulate the apparatus seen on screen to obtain the required results. Thus VEs aim to capture all possible results or outcomes of the original practical experiment. The number of different views, tools and variables all affect the complexity and development time, therefore these need to be laid out and discussed in depth before development can start. Not all experiments are suitable for delivery as a VE and several factors must be considered before starting development:

  • Are the variables discrete or continuous? In general discrete variables are easier to work with.

  • How many variables or states are there in the experiment? Each additional variable multiplies the number of outcomes, significantly increasing development time.

  • Reliability: Does the experiment reliably provide reproducible results? If not this can cause delays in the recording/capture process as the experiment will have to be repeated multiple times to obtain acceptable results.

  • Repeatability/Hysteresis. Is the order in which measurements are taken important? Does this affect future measurements? If so then the experiment may be more constrained.

  • Availability of apparatus. We have a filming studio, but for fixed experiments we can record on location and this may require additional time to complete depending on availability.

What is involved in the development of a Virtual Experiment?

A typical Virtual Experiment development cycle comprises 5 stages:

Planning Stage

Meetings to discuss designs, complexity, variables and learning outcomes.

Capture Stage

Using professional grade equipment and techniques, the experiment is recorded to digital media ready for editing.

Development Stage

First the captured footage is encoded and prepared, then the Flash object is assembled and the experiment's behaviour is programmed. This normally the longest stage.

Testing Stage

Impact trials and user testing help highlight any weak points and the feedback is used to refine the Virtual Experiment ready for deployment.

Deployment Stage

The Virtual Experiment is packaged up and delivered via the chosen medium

Do you have an idea for a Virtual Experiment?

If your interested in getting involved or have an idea please get in contact with us, have a look at our Contact page