Conversations on Evidence-based Practices for Virtual Science Laboratory (VSL) Adoption for STEM Education

Concurrent Session 7

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

This raises awareness about Virtual Science Laboratory (VSL) for STEM Education. Best practices and the initiation of a Professional Learning Community will be discussed.


Dr. Stovall earned a B.S. in Sec. Ed., MNS, and Ph.D. at Southern University, 2001, LSU, 2012, Southern University, 2015, respectively. She holds a La. Teaching Certificate in Sec. Math with the following add-ons: Teacher Leader, Comp. Lit, Ed. Tech. Facilitator, Online Instructor, and Elem. Math Specialist. She's worked as a High School Teacher and Instructional Specialist. She currently works as the EBRP School System STEM Coordinator and was the system's 2013 High School Teacher of the Year. She was invited to serve and present as the 2015 La. State Representative at the SECME STEM Institute. She recently presented her doctoral research at the 2015 MSERA Annual Meeting where she received the Foundation Award and was elected as the LEA Representative. She presented Effective STEM PD Practices at the 2015 LATM/LSTA conference, as well. She holds memberships with NSTA, NCTM, MSERA, MAN Digital Scholar, and LRCE and sits on the Ed. Review Committee for Knock Knock Children's Museum.

Extended Abstract

Conversations on Evidence-based Practices for Virtual Science Laboratory (VSL) Adoption for STEM Education
Session Moderator: Dr. Moustapha Diack, Director
Doctoral Program in Science/Math Education (SMED)
(Director, MERLOT Africa Network - MAN)
Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA 70813

Evidence-based practice is based on the idea that instructional methods should be based on research findings and research-based theory, and that one cannot expect educational reform efforts, such as the growing acceptance of virtual laboratory as 21st century teaching and learning, to have significant effects and acceptance without research-based knowledge to guide them. This conversation has a primary goal of raising awareness, initiating a MERLOT/Louisiana Professional Learning Community (PLC) around virtual science laboratory for STEM education, and gathering thoughts for building convincing and compelling arguments toward the acceptance of VSL by major stakeholders.

Traditionally, STEM instruction in K-20 has consisted of a lecture component and a hands-on laboratory component to reinforce classroom-based lecture concepts. Until recent years, physical, hands-on laboratory experiences were the only experiences available to fulfill these requirements. We argue that there are many circumstances when offering hands-on experiential work to students is not practical and that the use of virtual laboratory learning environments should be seriously considered by K-12 and higher education. Furthermore, recent meta-analysis of empirical studies presenting a first attempt to synthesize post-2005 empirical studies show clear advantages VSL. Regardless of the affordances of this technology, their validity and acceptance have been questioned by many States in the Unites States and science education organizations such as the National Science Teacher Association [NSTA] and accrediting agencies such as the American Chemical Society [ACS], arguing against using computer simulations as a substitute for in-person, in school laboratory experiences. This conversation strongly argue that the debate MUST be shifted from the potential of virtual laboratory to replace hands' on face-to-face science experiment to its potential use to supplement these traditional learning environments and how VSL can be best used to educate students to confront the many challenges affecting the STEM disciplines. There has been renewed interests in blended learning experiences that incorporate various combinations of virtual laboratory and traditional classroom instruction. Many approaches are to be investigated including the use of VSL as (1) supplement to actual laboratory assignments; (2) pre-lab or post-lab activities; (3) homework or quizzes; (4) make-up labs; (5) classroom demonstrations; (6) inquiry-based learning activities in groups and their use as blended model alternating traditional to virtual laboratory. This interactive discussion session will attempt to give an overview of the current evidence-based practices and will address questions such as:
1. What are the current positions of STEM organizations and Accrediting Agencies toward the adoption of VSL?
2. Are there any systemic emerging integration models to learn from (California State University Case; Louisiana Board of Regents Online Learning Innovation Grant)?
3. Is it conceivable to entertain a future of Virtual Science Laboratory to replace traditional laboratory (In which conditions)?
3. What is the situation in your own State or Organization?
4. Is there a lack of general consensus regarding the "effectiveness" of VSL versus Traditional Lab?
4. Would you join a Professional Learning Community (PLC) supported through MERLOT?

Session Moderator:

Dr. Moustapha Diack, Director
Doctoral Program in Science/Math Education (SMED)
(Director, MERLOT Africa Network)
Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA 70813

Invited Panelists:

Dr. Abdus Salam
Department of Computer Sciences
Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA 70813

Dr. Gerard L. Hanley?Assistant Vice Chancellor, Academic Technology Services Executive Director, MERLOT?California State University, Office of the Chancellor?401 Golden Shore?Long Beach, CA, USA 90802
Dr. SundÈe Warren (MERLOT Digital Scholar 2014)
Coordinator, E-Learning - MERLOT Digital Scholars
Community Affairs Director for the Louisiana Office of Public Health

Dr. Ni'Shawn Stovall (MERLOT Digital Scholar 2015)
Instructional Specialist for STEM Programs
East Baton Rouge Parish School System.
Istrouma High School; Belaire High School; Broadmoor Middle School

Conversation Sponsors:

Louisiana Board of Regents (BoR) eLearning Task Force - Funds from the Louisiana e-Learning Innovations 2015-2016 Grant

Multimedia Education Resources for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) international organization ( and the MERLOT Africa Network (