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Inquiry learning in online labs

TEACHERS: Ton de Jong, Henny Leemkuil, Judith ter Vrugte, Elise Eshuis & Karel Kroeze

European schools are stimulated to put extra effort in science and engineering education. One way to this is to use online labs. Virtual and remote labs (real labs that can be remotely operated) provide schools with the opportunity to make use of advance technology and to perform experiments which are impossible in a simple school laboratory. Students can engage in inquiry learning through these labs. In inquiry learning students take the role of a scientist; they ask questions, formulate hypotheses and conduct experiments.

They acquire both domain knowledge and inquiry skills through these processes. Inquiry learning has proven to be an effective way to learn, but only if students are supported sufficiently. At the IST department we investigate under which circumstandes inquiry learning is effective, how inquiry learning should be supported and what the benefits or drawbacks the use of online labs have compared to hands-on experience. Most of this research is executed within the Go-Lab project and in an NWO project on online labs and 2st century skills for vocational education students. The goal of Go-Lab is to open up online science laboratories for large-scale use in school education and to offer proper guidance and support to students embedded in an Inquiry Learning Space (ILS) to help them perform experiments. See more at: and Research questions in this program could be:

  • How effective is a remote lab (a physical lab that can be remotely operated) compared to a virtual lab?
  • Which combination of remote, virtual, and real labs is the most effective?
  • What kind of feedback/instruction should we provide students with in order for them to conduct better experiments and gain better learning outcomes?
  • Is it possible to personalize instruction and feedback for the individual student and how?
  • How effective are inquiry learning environments in the Netherlands, in terms of gaining domain knowledge and acquiring inquiry skills, compared to other European countries?
  • How can we use online labs in primary education?
  • What tools can we design for vocational students to support the acquisition of 21st century skills
  • How can we inform teachers on the performance of their students so that they can give face to face feedback


Adaptive hypothesis scratchpad