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Mixing Digital and Physical

Interview with Jan Stahlberg,
Head of Strategic Partnerships, Labster

Labster is a Danish technology company producing true-to-life, virtual laboratory simulations. Scientifically relatable scenarios are combined with gamification elements such as an immersive 3D universe, storytelling and a scoring system to produce greater student learning outcomes. The company was set up in 2012 and simulations are being used by e.g. Stanford, Harvard, Southeast Asia University, and University of Exeter.

How does Labster combine physical and virtual learning experiments?

Just like pilots use simulators to rehearse and practice their flight skills, we develop virtual labs for science students. The entire simulation is gamified – from the scenario through to theory and knowledge-based quizzes. But the actual lab work is very much a clear and real science experiment that seeks to develop the students’ knowledge. Students are immersed and merged in these experiments and they also learn by making mistakes. Being in our virtual labs increases students’ competences, skills and knowledge. So when they then move into physical labs to conduct experiments, they are able to do the experiments more quickly, understand concepts more fully and can be inspired to come up with new ideas. There are lots of outcome- based advantages of mixing the digital and physical worlds.

Are teachers a part of these virtual lab simulations?

Absolutely. The virtual laboratory is a toolbox that increases the motivation and the engagement of the students, especially for those students who have difficulties in understanding theories or complicated contexts. In a virtual setting, students can experience these theories a lot more closely. Also, the virtual labs give the teacher the ability to differentiate and to target the learning progress a lot better – they have a ‘dashboard’ by which they can monitor each student’s progress. We hope that both teachers and students ask questions of themselves as they interact with our simulations: Where am I good at, where should I practice more, which stages are existing in the experiment, which equipment was good to use, which theory did I answer well? Virtual labs stimulate students’ natural curiosity, and help the teachers to be more effective.

Jan Stahlberg uses an entrepreneurial approach to reimagining education. Currently, he is focused on developing large national and international impact investment programmes in partnership with government agencies, higher education, and industry stakeholders. This work is technology focused, and uses virtual reality to bridge physical and virtual learning spaces. He holds an MBA in Public Service Management and has long been active in social, education, and economic policy development in both Denmark and the UK.