Design considerations for virtual laboratories: A comparative study of two virtual laboratories for learning about gas solubility and colour appearance
Journal article, 2019

Building a virtual laboratory for teaching and learning is a highly complex process,
incorporating diverse areas such as interaction design, visualisation, and pedagogy.
This article focuses on the production and implementation issues that were found in the
comparison of two different virtual laboratory projects, and discuss which design
considerations can be drawn from these observations. Two web-based virtual laboratories
- the Gas Laboratory and the Virtual Colour Laboratory - were developed
independently of each other within two different content areas. The laboratories share
considerable overlaps in goals and production circumstances. Through a comparison of
production and outcome, similar problems related to design, development and implementation
were observed. The research uses a mixed method approach combining
quantitative pre- and post-tests for assessments, qualitative surveys, and qualitative,
ethnographic observations and interviews. By comparing the background material, five
design challenges for developing virtual laboratories are identified: 1) how to balance
ambitions with available resources; 2) how to balance intended levels of user interaction
with exploratory freedom; 3) how to find appropriate levels of realism depending
on target group; 4) how to choose between mimicking real world appearance and
enhanced features; and 5) how to find the best learning situation for the virtual
laboratory. To meet these challenges, the following design considerations are proposed:
Guide the design work with a clear understanding of purpose and context; select
appropriate technology to ensure efficient design and media usage; select level of
realism considering purpose and end users; and provide learning guides before and
after the virtual lab session.

Interactive learning environments

Cloned and enhanced laboratories

User evaluation

Interdisciplinary projects

Virtual laboratories

Design considerations


Beata Stahre Wästberg

Chalmers, Computer Science and Engineering (Chalmers), Interaction Design (Chalmers)

Thommy Eriksson

Chalmers, Computer Science and Engineering (Chalmers), Interaction Design (Chalmers)

Göran Karlsson

Learning, Communication and IT

Maria Sunnerstam

Michael Axelsson

Monica Billger

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, Architectural theory and methods

Education and Information Technologies

1360-2357 (ISSN)

Areas of Advance

Information and Communication Technology

Building Futures (2010-2018)

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories


Interaction Technologies

Human Computer Interaction


Basic sciences

Learning and teaching

Pedagogical work



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