Is This “Experimental Science”?

When I was pre-med student, a 4 credit course consisted of 3 credits for lecture hall meetings and 1 credit for laboratory activities.  We have to learn to handle the equipment of the laboratory and work with specimens directly.  That was the whole point of the lab activity.  I went on to work in a chemistry lab while I was an undergrad student.

My 19 year old daughter Mary is a college freshman taking a 4 credit Biology course with a lab.  For her laboratory activity, the school uses a “virtual lab” software that students complete online.  Here’s a preview below:

What’s interesting to me is that, in the Academy, I have told my students that there is no need to actually conduct lab activities directly, but it is sufficient to read through experiments.  In fact, I think it’s better to learn experimental science by reading well-written experiments than by trying to conduct them oneself, which can often lead to failure.

Some have criticized me for this, but as we can now see, colleges have no problem with students learning about experimental science “virtually”.  We don’t need high-tech software programs to do this:  just read the experiments.

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