There is a great deal to be learned inside a virtual lab environment. Students can access real research while trying to recreate the experiments that generated it. Teachers can model the scientific process or design custom programs for their students to theorize, test, and process. If study meets a dead end, the system can explain why and then allow students to retrace their steps and try again—no harm, no foul.
These are the goals of LabXchange, a science education platform being put together by a partnership of Harvard University and the Amgen Foundation. Launching in beta in the summer of 2018, it will offer a virtual laboratory experience and digital instruction to high school and college students who might not otherwise have access to an advanced science education.
“There are many millions of students who, as a result of economic or geographic limitations, simply do not have access to one of the most central aspects of being a scientist, which is working in a laboratory,” said Robert Lue, a professor of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard and one of the principals of LabXchange.
Medical research giant Amgen, which is pouring $6.5 million in grant funding into LabXchange’s development, also funds other science outreach programs. The Amgen Biotech Experience has so far reached well over half a million high school students.
“Advances in technology are not only having an incredible impact on how we develop and deliver innovative medicines to patients, but also on how we educate and inspire the next generation of scientists,” said Robert Bradway, CEO of Amgen, told the Harvard Gazette. “By joining forces with Harvard, LabXchange’s interactive educational platform will give students studying biology around the world access to a unique virtual lab experience for free.”
LabXchange will be delivered via the edX platform, a learning community with more than 35 million users all around the world.
“EdX is delighted to be a part of this groundbreaking initiative, which aligns completely with edX’s mission to increase access to high-quality education for all learners everywhere,” said edX Chief Executive Officer Anant Agarwal.