First year Westminster Life Sciences students have completed their end-of-year compulsory Biochemistry practical lab assignment through a high-tech virtual laboratory simulation after teaching had to move online due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Screenshot of virtual lab practical
Learning Science

The transformative learning technology called Learning Science has ensured that the students could complete the academic year without delay despite lockdown measures introduced across the UK during the global pandemic.

The 555 students who have undergone the truly 21st century lab experience have taken the Biochemistry module as part of the Biochemistry BSc Honours, Human Nutrition BSc Honours, Pharmacology & Physiology BSc Honours, Biomedical Sciences BSc Honours or Biological Sciences BSc Honours course.

The practical had been planned to be taken as an in-class test with the aim to asses basic laboratory skills, including correctly using equipment such as micropipettes, balances, and spectrophotometers.



When face-to-face teaching had to stop as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Dr Sarah Coleman, Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry, was quick to transform assignment plans into a virtual format so that students could complete the practical test without delay.

Students completed the tasks focusing on how basic laboratory equipment works in a series of digital labs with virtual equipment. In the computer stimulation, they showed how to use basic equipment like pipettes, made up a solution and showed how to measure solution density, all in a virtual setting.

The software allowed students to show that they know the basic principles of Life Sciences laboratory work therefore measuring their knowledge, meeting the learning outcome and being able to receive feedback.

Dr Sarah Coleman said: “I think this illustrates the University’s commitment to student learning and experience. We want our students to be able to progress without delays, and because we want to innovate our learning and teaching we already had these virtual lab tools available. Importantly, the students stepped up well to the challenge of a major assessment change in a very short time.”

Douglas Burns, first year Biomedical Sciences BSc Honours student, said: “I was impressed on how you managed to move the practical exam to an online format at such short notice. You’ve done a great job.”

Khalid Akram, another Biological Sciences student, said: “Thank you for arranging. They were interesting and a good replacement for the actual physical tests.”

Learn more about the School of Life Sciences at the University of Westminster.

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