Introduction. Substantial increases in student-to-staff ratios combined with restricted timetabling for laboratory practical classes have the potential to impact upon student learning. Preparing students for these sessions using a Virtual Laboratory Practical Class (VLPC) that closely emulates the real life practical may be an effective, modern method of increasing student learning of critical practical skills and more efficient and timely completion of tasks.
Aims. To design and test a VLPC for teaching organ-bath-based practicals to second year undergraduate pharmacology students.
Results. Students exposed to the VLPC reported a small but significant (P<0.05) increase in their confidence in successfully completing the live practical experiment. There was a significant improvement in the performance of student groups containing members who completed the VLPC prior to the live lab class, where a reduced mean time (P<0.005) and a decreased variance in student completion times were both observed.
Discussion. The data collected thus far indicate that the VLPC may be an effective remedial or standardizing tool by increasing student awareness, confidence and performance when engaging in practical laboratory experimentation. Future direction will be geared towards new modules that include different experiments with significantly enhanced graphical and intuitive properties.