The benefits of integrating e-learning and e-assessment into practical science sessions

There are wide-reaching benefits of adopting a systematic approach to the integration of e-learning and e-assessment into practical sciences. The Dynamic Lab Manuals (DLMs) developed by Learning Science for the University of Bristol  have had a huge impact; enhancing the quality of science laboratory learning for students and reducing the marking and administrative burden for staff. Students are much better prepared at the start of the laboratory session and therefore more confident, with the result that they enjoy the laboratory experience to a much greater extent. The DLMs also provide the means to assess the students on their understanding and provide them with immediate feedback.

The success of the DLMs at Bristol has not gone unnoticed, winning the Times Higher Education Outstanding ICT Initiative of the Year Award and receiving the runner-up prize in the Guardian University Award for Teaching Excellence.

Investing in the integration of e-learning and e-assessment ensures that the benefits and opportunities new technologies offer in enhancing the learning experience are effectively implemented. Furthermore, it creates a sustainable, supportable and consistent environment to allow the university to deliver high value learning content.

Today’s students are immersed in media rich content and are accustomed to having access to information at their fingertips, whether this is on their laptop, tablet or smartphone. It is not surprising that the same students expect these types of content to be blended into their courses at university.

Resources that were traditionally contained within printed texts are moving online. The real power of the new technologies, however, is not simply reproducing the printed word in electronic form. Rather, it is achieved by taking advantage of varied multimedia approaches to teach complicated and/or counterintuitive concepts and procedures in a visual, interactive and engaging manner that relates directly to the expectations of 21st century students.

The Traditional Approach vs The DLM Approach

The following graphic illustrates typical timelines for laboratory sessions using a traditional approach and a DLM approach. The actual amount of lab time does not change but a major advantage of utilising a DLM is that the whole process is more efficient, significantly reducing the time from preparation and lab work to the final marking and feedback. It also enables a greater amount of assessment during the lab session with multiple opportunities for feedback. The majority of the benefits are facilitated by investing in pre-lab resources and effective online post-lab marking.
DLM approach infographicLaboratory time and space comes at a high price, making it even more important to use the lab sessions as effectively as possible. The traditional approach typically involves students arriving at the practical lesson having done minimal preparation and without a clear understanding of the techniques or the science behind the experiment. Consequently, a large amount of lab time is focused on students getting up to speed by listening to a long introductory talk, reading through a lab manual or asking demonstrators basic questions. Understanding and appreciation of the learning objectives only begin to become clear during the long (and often laborious) write-up following the experiment.

The DLM approach incorporates pre-lab activities and resources which give students a thorough grasp of the underlying science behind each experiment. Students spend more time preparing for the practical sessions which results in increased levels of enjoyment and satisfaction. Staff teaching practical sessions benefit from students arriving at the laboratory ready to work. They also have access to see how well students have performed in the pre-lab quizzes and safety assessment, allowing any issues to be dealt with promptly. Furthermore, since the students already have a good understanding of the experiment, a significant amount of in-lab assessment can be achieved.

Comments from students at the University of Bristol:

“I really like it, as allows me to feel more confident in the practical and fully understand the practical before I enter.”

“The pre-labs are especially helpful because they explain what you are doing before the practical which makes practicals easier.”

“eBiolabs [DLM] has been really useful in preparation for practical work and it has been beneficial to have to work out certain aspects of practical work rather than being spoon-fed information.”

Traditional assessment is often concentrated solely on the lab report. This means that there is a long delay before the student receives any feedback, by which time they have often started a different experiment and the opportunity to fully harness the potential learning outcomes, from what has been an expensive practical session, have been lost.

The DLM utilises a number of technologies to streamline the marking, enabling the whole process (pre-lab to post-lab) to be complete within one week.  This is achieved partly by reducing the number of full write-ups, and using pre-lab quizzes and online proformas. Online marking and attendance are facilitated using LMS technologies such as Moodle and Blackboard which Universities have commonly already invested in. The impact of streamlining the marking and feedback process has a positive effect on students’ experiences in laboratory-based disciplines.

Staff comments from the University of Bristol:

“The online marking of post-lab tests has improved the timeliness of receipt of marks and feedback on assessed work.”

“The DLM has allowed us to cope with increasing numbers of students in an efficient and effective way.”

“The DLMs have completely replaced the traditional printed lab manuals in chemistry and biochemistry practicals which allows students to practice laboratory methods and techniques online prior to the lab thereby greatly aiding preparation and confidence. By further integrating quizzes, coursework submission and automated marking systems along with instant feedback and attendance tracking, these DLMs have radically changed the student and staff experience.”

“With hindsight the only thing that we should have done differently was to introduce the DLM much earlier.”

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Free primary science resources

Visit our new website ‘Dynamic Labs‘  for free interactive primary level resources on sound light and matter.

Dynamic Labs for primary school science is a collection of resources built by Learning science and funded by the Primary Science Teaching Trust

Sound lab is a great set of four learning resources for interactive whiteboards which support teaching and learning of the topic of sound and develop key skills in scientific investigation.


Light lab is a learning resource for interactive whiteboards which support teaching and learning of the topic of light. It explores basic principles of light plus reflection, refraction and dispersion.

This resource has accompanying teaching notes containing key terminology and suggested supplementary activities. Look for the teacher notes icon within the resource. It is also suitable for individual study and will work on ipads and tablets.

light screen shot

Matter lab is a set of two learning resource for interactive whiteboards which support teaching and learning of the topic of matter. The resources that cover the basic properties of solid liquids and gases plus how materials move between states.

These resource each have accompanying teaching notes containing key terminology and suggested supplementary activities. Look for the teacher notes icon within the resource. The resources are also suitable for individual study and will work on ipads and tablets.


You can use all the resources, for free at

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Fancy a job in e-Learning?

We’re expanding and looking to add to our friendly and hard working team. You’ll be helping us create outstanding interactive e-learning materials and your work will be seen by thousands of students worldwide.

We have the following positions available, follow the link to download the job description with contact details:

e-Learning Instructional Designer (£25k+) [pdf]

No agencies please

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Coming Soon: New, free, website to showcase the best primary science resources.

In collaboration with the Primary Science Teaching Trust, Learning Science is building a child and parent focused website to bring together the best primary science resources available. Interactives, videos, websites; we will select only high quality resources that you can trust.

Learning science is collaborating with the Primary Science Teachign Trust to build a new, free, website to showcase the best primary science resources The internet is a wonderful thing. So much information at our fingertips, the downside is that it can be overwhelming and sometimes it’s hard to pick out the good from the bad. If you are looking for resources such as videos or websites for your children to use, how do you know which ones are worth looking at?

Over the next year or so, our scientists will be trawling the web to find the best educational science resources suitable for primary school age children. We’ll be playing games, watching videos and working through interactives to pick out the creme de la creme of what’s available. The website will be easy to navigate and will link to only excellent, subject-specific resources based on sound science, so you don’t need to waste time on google but can direct your children and students to great resources at the click of a button.

We are currently working with the Bristol based branding company Marriage on the design. More details in the near future…

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Cengage LabSkills will soon be available for tablets and smartphones.

We are pleased to announce the development of our HTML5 version of Cengage LabSkills for Higher Education.

HTML5 is becoming increasingly popular as it allows interactive content and videos to be played on operating systems that do not support adobe flash. This means you will soon be able to use Labskills on mobile devices such as androids, iphones and ipads.

As well as the added compatibility, the html5 Cengage LabSkills will include new content, including activities on boiling point, sublimation, polarimetry and steam distillation.

Contact us to find out more.

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New Dynamic Lab Manuals for Bristol University.

Following the success of eBiolabs and Bristol ChemLabS Dynamic Laboratory Manual (DLM), this winter marks the completion of a multi-year project to implement DLMs in the Schools of of Biological Sciences, Physics and Dentistry.

Screenshot from the Biology DLM

The Dynamic Laboratory Manual is an online interactive learning environment designed to complement the undergraduate laboratory teaching. Interactive simulations and videos are accompanied by quizzes and feedback to encourage learning and thoroughly prepare students for lab sessions.

The new Biological sciences, Physics and Dentistry DLMs have been going live over the past year and are now complete. There are also new resources for students studying Electrical Engineering and Anatomy. Initial surveys found a high level of student satisfaction with the online resources.

This project has been yet another successful collaboration between Learning Science and the University of Bristol and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved.

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Launch of RSC Aspirin Screen Experiment: A New, Free, Interactive Resource.

We are pleased to announce the Launch of Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) Aspirin Screen Experiment, a free interactive tool for Chemistry teachers and students.

The active ingredient of aspirin is found in willow bark which has been used as a painkiller for hundreds of years.  Aspirin was patented in 1900 by the German company Bayer and nowadays is a generic medicine produced on a scale of ~35 tons per year.  Aspirin synthesis is commonly studied at A-level  as an example of an organic chemistry experiment.

The RSC interactive is targeted at chemistry students aged 16-18 and allows users to run their own experiments online, learning about synthesis and purification before attempting the real thing in the lab.  The resource is split into four levels, each of which should take about 40 minutes to complete. The levels include videos and simulations and calculations and is built in HTML5 so will work on the latest browsers, smartphones and tablet devices.

Visit the RSC website to use the resource, or watch the videos on you tube.

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A level Biology LabSkills released!

Building on the successful model of A level Chemistry LabSkills, we are excited to announce the release of our new product  ‘A level Biology LabSkills’A level Biology LabSkills: an interactive guide to A-level Biology practicals

Biology is a subject taught through investigations, and success involves mastering a number of key skills and techniques. Biology LabSkills allows students to explore concepts and skills through an interactive and dynamic set of resources.

The resource has been built with the guidance of experienced teachers who understand where students typically struggle.

For more information including a full contents list, curriculum match documents and example interactions visit

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The University of Bristol’s eBiolabs and Bristol ChemLabS were runners up in the first ever Guardian University Award for Teaching Excellence category.

The interactive microscope in eBiolabs has been very popularThe University of Bristol’s eBiolabs and Bristol ChemLabS were runners up in the first ever Guardian University Award for Teaching Excellence category.

The award, sponsored by The Higher Education Academy, acts as a benchmark for excellence and recognises universities that are dedicated to high-quality teaching, including innovation in teaching and learning methods and the introduction of technology in teaching.
Bristol’s eBiolabs and Bristol ChemLabS were shortlisted for their innovative web-based, fully interactive Dynamic Laboratory Manual (DLM), which supports undergraduate laboratory-based teaching and learning with video, fully interactive simulations and virtual instrumentation together with inbuilt pre- and in-laboratory e-assessment and safety training.

The DLMs have completely replaced the traditional printed lab manuals in chemistry and biomedical sciences which allows students to practice laboratory methods and techniques online prior to the lab thereby greatly aiding preparation and confidence. By further integrating quizzes, coursework submission and automated marking systems along with instant feedback and attendance tracking, these DLMs have radically changed the student and staff experience. Furthermore, the LabSkills software developed with Bristol-based e-learning company Learning Science Ltd has led to innovative DLM-style products which have been sold to schools and universities in over 30 countries worldwide.

Dr Gus Cameron, eBiolabs Director from the University’s School of Biochemistry, said: “We are absolutely delighted to achieve this recognition. Our Dynamic Laboratory Manuals have radically improved both the student and the staff experience in the laboratory and this award acts as a very welcome endorsement of all that we have achieved.”
Professor Nick Norman, Bristol ChemLabS Chief Executive and Head of the School of Chemistry, said: “ChemLabS and eBiolabs have been recognised by the University of Bristol as one of the most important recent teaching and learning initiatives, and work is underway to further develop this activity in other disciplines. For us to achieve such recognition with this national award is testament to the quality of undergraduate education at Bristol.”

The winners were announced at the Guardian University Awards on Wednesday 27 February 2013 in London.  For more details click here.

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Job opening for an HTML5 / JavaScript Developer

We’re looking to recruit a new developer to our friendly and hard working team. You’ll use the latest web technologies to produce outstanding interactive e-learning materials (think canvas element, drag and drop, animation, client side MVC). The work you do will be seen by thousands of students worldwide – you could help inspire a future generation of scientists.

You’ll work on a variety of projects, some small enough for you to take full ownership, and others where you’ll work as part of a team. You could be on a project aimed at primary school children one week and postgraduate students the next – on subjects from anatomy to nanotechnology.

What we’re looking for
• You have strong HTML5, JavaScript and CSS skills. (Experience with HTML5 canvas is an advantage, as is use of CSS3 transforms.)
• You have a real passion for the web and want to work with the latest web technologies.
• You have strong communication skills and the ability to collaborate and solve problems with others.
• You’ll be able to demonstrate your portfolio of web developments.
• You have familiarity with a server side programming language.
• You don’t need to be able to code for IE6 – we’re firmly focused on modern HTML5 browsers.

• Collaborate with our science and design team to implement new and exciting products.
• Work on your own and as part of a team.
• Keep our technology stack current, by championing new client-side tools and libraries.
• Write good quality, clean, tested code.

About Learning Science
We are a successful and growing company. We are at the forefront of e-learning in science education and enjoy pushing the web to provide excellent solutions for our clients. We take our science seriously and employ experienced designers and subject matter experts to make sure that the materials we produce are innovative, effective and accurate. You don’t need to have a PhD in physics to work here but having an in interest in science and technology outside of web development would be great.

If you are looking to work in a great environment on varied projects then please email your CV to us.
No agencies

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