By: Azman Zakaria
Photo: Noor Azreen Awang
SERDANG: Researchers from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) have successfully developed a website that hosts virtual laboratories which allow students to conduct virtual practical before conducting the same experiment physically in an actual laboratory.
The virtual laboratory, known as the 'AsperLabs: An Open Source Virtual Laboratories for Foundation Programme' and located at the Centre of Foundation Studies for Agricultural Science, UPM, allows students to visit the website and conduct virtual experiments according to the instructions provided.
The recorded results obtained from the virtual experiment provide ’pre-lab’ information that would prepare students before they enter the laboratory. Students are also allowed to repeat the virtual experiment until they obtained satisfactory results.
Students will then conduct the actual experiment in the laboratory and compare the results with the results obtained through the virtual experiments and identify reasons for discrepancies in the results, if any. The head of the research group, Dr. Muhammad Alif Mohammad Latif, said in general, students failed to get a clear picture on the relationship between the subjects learned during lectures and the practical sessions in the laboratory.
Hence, according to him, the innovation will increase students’ understanding of the subject and the practical session conducted in the laboratory as it serves as a preparation before students enter the laboratory to conduct the experiment physically.
"With the virtual laboratory, students will acquire the theoretical results of the experiment beforehand and then compare the theoretical results with the ones obtained through the actual experiment.
"This can serve as a benchmark for teachers and students to assess the level of success of the practical sessions," he said.
Dr. Muhammad Alif who is also a senior lecturer at the Centre of Foundation Studies, said the innovation involved the development of a website that hosts virtual practical laboratories for four subjects offered by the centre, namely Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics.
He added that so far, the activities for the Physics, Chemistry and Biology subjects have successfully been developed on the website. As for the Mathematics subject, the website serves as an alternative to the current tutorial methods practised in lectures.
"This innovation is the first of its kind at the Centre of Foundation Studies for Agricultural Science, UPM, where a virtual version of the practical session is integrated in subjects at the pre-university level," he said.
Other than the four subjects at the Centre of Foundation Studies for Agricultural Science, UPM, other subjects including those at the degree level could also take advantage of the virtual laboratories to improve the quality of Teaching and Learning (T&L) using the same implementation method, he added.
He said the innovation was able to enhance students' understanding of the subjects learnt and awareness on the advantages of using computers in learning, in line with the industrial revolution 4.0.
He added that the innovation could also be adopted by school teachers according to the level of learning and subjects.
The innovation won the third place in the Best Innovation in Teaching and Learning (T&L) Practices Competition 2017 (Faculty/Centre) and a silver medal at the Putra Innocreative Carnival in Teaching and Learning 2018.
The research project started on August 1, 2016 and was completed on January 31, 2019. The other two research group members were the Director of the Centre for Foundation in Agricultural Science, Prof. Dr. Norihan Md. Arifin and Dr. Marina Mohd Top @ Mohd Tah.
Currently, the website can be accessed via the link, http://asperlabs.tcchem.blog. It will soon be moved to a new link, www.asperlabs.upm.edu.my. - UPM
Date of Input: 08/07/2019 | Updated: 08/07/2019 | hairul_nizam
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