CEO and Co-founder of Labster
How far we’ve come and where we’re headed
It’s only four short years ago that Labster’s co-founder, Michael Bodekaer, stood on the stage at TEDxCERN and shared the vision of empowering science students around the world with access to high quality education.
On that stage with him, he had a VR headset. Wearing it, he showed what the insides of a million dollar virtual lab looked like to all of TED’s viewers. Last summer, over one million people had watched that TED Talk, and the vision of VR labs had come to life with the newest branch on the Labster family tree: Labster VR.
As the result of the collaboration between major partners (Google, Arizona State University, Lenovo, and Labster), the VR labs had a strong start. Many forward-thinking universities and high schools embraced what the new technology had to offer and integrated the new labs in their courses. Among these, Arizona State University stood out from the crowd and launched the first fully online biology degree in the world with Labster VR.
The number of VR-enabled labs in our simulation catalog grew, and with that, Labster grew too. Two new Labster offices were opened in Bali and in the US in 2018, and we welcomed lots of new faces to the Labster team. We also welcomed many new partnerships. These included world-renowned publishers like American Pearson and German Springer, who now also offer Labster’s virtual labs as an online component to their books.
The biggest milestones
More than 150 universities and high schools around the world took up Labster’s virtual labs in 2018, enabling 200,000 students worldwide to use virtual labs as a part of their science learning. In total, Labster’s simulations were played half a million times by students eager to learn science.
These numbers are all indicative of Labster being on the right path to making science education accessible to millions more students around the world - regardless of factors such as location and working hours.
As 2019 progresses, there are a number of things that we at Labster are looking to focus on to make sure we can continue to make a true difference in changing science education for the better.
The year ahead
A strong emphasis on collaborative efforts is a primary area of focus for us this year. In 2018 we saw students demanding change in education and many forward-thinking educators wanting change, but with little opportunity and bandwidth to make that change happen. So as we enter 2019, we are emphasizing collaborative efforts to ensure that barriers to change are broken down.
Understanding the users is at the core of all of this. We must work together across the sector - edtech providers, educational institutions and learners - to solve pressing issues such as the STEM crisis.
The students are particularly important in all of this. We’re seeing how the students’ expectations for their education are changing along with their needs and preferences: Today an increasing number of students choose degrees that offer flexible, online solutions, or choose to not take a full degree at all, and instead take microdegrees. Or they simply choose to be trained by employers to directly meet the employers’ requirements for skills and expertise.
To stay on top of the rapid changes we’re seeing, we’ll continue to work closely with the educators and gather their feedback to ensure that our product remains of great value to them and to their students. In that respect, we’d like to say a special thank you to all the professors who took the time to share their Labster experiences with us and the rest of our readers this year.
While we keep a close eye on developments and user feedback, we’re keen to keep our feet grounded and stay true to our why. We can’t choose to stay true to a technology for the sake of the technology. At Labster, we will, no matter what the future brings, always work to empower the next generation of scientists to change the world for the better. Right now, certain technologies are enabling that, but those technologies will inevitably change over time, bringing us back to our why.
That being said, we’re excited to be seeing changes in the sector, and we’re even more excited to be a part of that change. We hope to open up the conversation with even more educators this year and give them and their students the opportunity to step into a virtual, million-dollar lab.