Education Specialist at Labster for UK and Europe
Curriculum alignment: How will our simulations fit your course?
So–you’ve watched the TED talk, you’ve browsed the website, you’ve read the blogs… the studious among you may even have engaged with the literature, and a lucky few will have seen a demo on campus or at conference (we’d love to get round everywhere, we’re trying our best!).
The un-avoidable question asked next is: how will the simulations fit YOUR course?
Maybe you’re asking this because you would like to make a proposal for some of your teaching budget to be invested in technologies that will help your students learn; or maybe you’re being told from ‘on high’ that the money is already there to spend, but your input is now needed to match simulations to course modules.
Either way, the task of curriculum alignment can start to feel problematic, as there is a knowledge gap between what you know about your course content and what we know about the content of our library of over 70 simulations.
Aligning simulations and curricula
How do we bridge that gap to make it easier to align our simulations to your course?
There are really only 2 possibilities–either Labster needs to know the content and learning outcomes for every course which uses our lab simulations, or each teacher needs to be empowered with in-depth knowledge of the content of our entire catalog. Neither of those sound very feasible initially!
Truth be told, many of the scientific specialists employed across the board at Labster–building the simulations, planning product expansion, facilitating sales, or providing customer support–have all become fairly experienced at curriculum mapping over the years.
Collectively we’ve seen the syllabuses and curricula of numerous modules, courses and degrees being taught around the world. Reflecting on this recently, several things have struck us…
- There isn’t a huge difference between learning outcomes of related courses at different institutions. Perhaps this has come about as the internet brought an unprecedented level of transparency, or perhaps it is a demonstration of how the different quality assurance standards for education around the world work in agreement with each other.
- When mapping our simulations to any given course, the best that Labster can do is suggest topic-related simulations that have aligned learning outcomes. Ultimately the final decision has to be made by the teaching staff responsible for creating/delivering the course. And often the teacher will have ideas of their own of what else might be relevant to their students’ learning path.
- Teachers frequently ask how many simulations should be included in their module. There is no hard and fast answer to that as modules and courses run for different times, carry different credits, and may be fully online or on campus. Anything is ‘normal’ from 2 simulations over 10 weeks to 2 simulations every week. And we are excited to facilitate a new model of many new VR simulations over the next few years in collaboration with Google!
- Our simulations are not pitched at any one particular academic level, as educational systems around the world engage at different levels and different ages. Some simulations that might stretch a 3rd year undergraduate in Sweden could also be ideal for consolidation/revision for a Master’s level graduate student in China. We don’t want our simulations pigeon-holed at any specific ‘level’ but used appropriately according to student background and their projected learning.
What teachers can do
All these points have lead us to appreciate that the best curriculum alignment is done by the teacher themselves. And given our experience, we have found two ways to make that task easier for you.
- Option 1: Academic staff can access our Faculty Resource page. If you’re already a customer, please reach out to your Labster Representative. If you’re not a customer, but would like access, please reach out to us by filling out the contact form for Educators
- Option 2: We’ve bundled our simulations by topic, and scaffolded them as part of a ‘core’ or ‘extended’ group of subject-related labs (see the bundles here). We hope this will provide a good starting point on your exploration of our catalog… but do look deeper to see what else is available within your subject area! You can also do that by searching by subject in our simulation catalog.
Here’s a suggested workflow for you to align our simulations to your curriculum:
- Identify the intended learning outcomes of your course.
- Go to the Faculty Resource page or the simulation bundles and identify subject related simulations. Look for simulations where our listed learning outcomes align with the ones you already have for your own course.
- Also at the Faculty Resource page, check out the Quiz Questions for each of the simulations you identified in Step 2. This will give you an indication of the scientific content and academic level of the simulation.
- Watch the filmed version of any simulations that look like they could meet your learning outcomes after Step 3. Find these on the Faculty Resource page. At this point you may find there is slight misalignment of content (there will rarely be a perfect match!) but it's important to appreciate that it's the concepts that matter, and the context matters slightly less. Our simulations all have their own storyline, which may not have a whole lot to do with your subject. In fact, this can be of value to the students as they then have to transfer their learning to their own context, and the ability to transfer understanding rather than rote learning is very much a higher-order learning task. Keep in mind that you may also have some flexibility in adapting your own learning outcomes.
- Ultimately, you should have a play through of some of the simulations yourself, to experience what your students will be asked to do.
If you have a departmental licence that gives you full access to our catalog, and there are a couple of simulations for which you can’t quite see which one will work best for your class, you could try out both simulations, and collect feedback from students to guide your final decision.
You may even specifically identify a ‘working party’ of students to help you with the alignment task. Using their feedback means that students are involved with an aspect of their own course design, which is always a positive and highly informative step to take. Keep in mind that you don’t have to ask students to play through an entire simulation if you feel some of the learning outcomes are a step farther than your class needs to go. You could, for example, clearly indicate they need only complete 50% of a simulation (they will see this on their own progress bar and know when to stop).
Going through this process once each year as you do your annual course review, will ensure that the simulations stay relevant to your course, and that you have had an opportunity to review the full content of our catalog.
Take advantage of the gift of great flexibility that the Labster catalog brings you, and have fun shaping some changes to your course!