MicrobeLabVR is a single module from BioLabVR, a large-scale project aimed at producing the medium and tools for a multisensory, interactive, and immersive environment through which to teach concepts in biological sciences by direct experience. Students will participate in a realistic VR scenario in which they will assess an environmental problem; visualize, measure, and interact with microorganisms from lake samples; and analyze preliminary data using staining techniques with simulated lab equipment. The VR platform will take the classroom experience to a new level by making a lab environment available to students anywhere they have access to a computer and a VR headset––and in a way that is immersive and engaging.
The module simulates a sample collection from Lake Vancouver––located in Washington State known for its challenges in regards to pollution from fertilizers and pesticides––in order to relate to the local community and make the experience more relevant to our students. This simulation narrative can be adapted easily to other localities, making any module more relevant to students by engaging them with environments, problems, and features that are more applicable to their community. In this VR learning environment, students can and will be encouraged to make mistakes without the costly consequences of real world labs. Organized as a game where students score points, make level advancements, and “save the lake” in the end, MicrobeLabVR encourages individual growth and promotes strategies for personal motivation.