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This new science learning platform helps more students and teachers access science learning.

This free science learning platform holds real promise

Everyone needs science--here's how a new science learning platform makes access to learning a bit easier

A new science learning platform brings together a visionary team led by Professor Robert Lue of Harvard with the philanthropic arm of a leading biotechnology company, both of which have a deep commitment to making it possible for everyone to learn and engage in science.

Brought to you by the Amgen Foundation and Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, LabXchange launched publicly in January. The launch coincided with the UN International Day of Education.

Related content: How challenge-based learning helps with science exploration

To realize its full potential for innovation, science needs everyone. We need to create opportunities for all people – from every background, race, gender, and geography – to pursue and achieve their own potential in science.

The World Economic Forum estimates that one billion lives have been saved by vaccines, but how much of the world’s population has had the ability to contribute to the discovery and development of vaccines, or any medicine for that matter? How many discoveries and medicines are we missing out on because of that?

While biomedical science has indeed come far, how many young people with the potential to transform our world in groundbreaking ways have not done so simply because they’ve never had the opportunity

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Education is key to creating these opportunities, and the digital environment has the power to expand access. While technology is not a panacea for inequities in education, when used right – when designed to complement in-person instruction in a pedagogically-sound way to empower educators and learners – it can truly add value.

And remember, this is free. If we are to reach that inner-city or rural school, or a teacher in a developing country, we need to blend in-person opportunities with the very best science education the digital world can provide, making sure it’s accessible with a basic internet connection.

A 10th grade biology teacher leverages the online platform

A 10th grade biology teacher first learned about the platform at the National Association of Biology Teachers conference. As she thinks about how best to use the platform in her teaching, she notices that LabXchange now has over 1,000 (and growing) high-quality, curated assets developed by LabXchange and other collaborators. She also appreciates the way the platform empowers teachers like her to combine those assets into a pathway where she decides what to include as well how to order the assets based on her learning objectives and target audience.

She decides to build one pathway for her AP Biology class, and another one for her introductory Biology class, taking into account the level of the students and the sequence that works best for what she’s trying to accomplish. For both pathways, she includes a pre-assessment, a video, a protocol simulation of a scientific technique, a narrative story about a researcher, a scrollable interactive, a text article, and a post-assessment.

The simulation in particular – where her students explore the context, select materials, make predictions, execute a protocol while receiving feedback as they make mistakes, get results and then reflect on the outcomes – makes several of her students see themselves as a scientist. She also decides for one of the classes to add a video of her own about the local river, an issue that’s relevant to the students’ local context.

Through a mentoring relationship she developed on LabXchange and has with a new biology teacher across town, she then shares her pathway so the other teacher can use or adapt it for her own students.

An 11th grade life sciences teacher integrates the platform into an in-person lab experience

An 11th grade life science teacher also decides to leverage the platform. But he decides to do so as he prepares his students for a wet lab experience. While LabXchange could be used to prepare students for any lab, this teacher utilizes the Amgen Biotech Experience labs in his classroom.

In this instance, he doesn’t need to build a pathway, as LabXchange has already built several pathways (combined into what’s called a cluster) designed to parallel and prepare students for these particular labs. The evening before students isolate and separate DNA molecules in class, his students practice isolating and separating DNA molecules virtually, with none of the safety issues, money concerns about materials wasted, or other barriers that can hamper science in schools.

Being able to fail over and over without repercussion helps his students prepare to be successful when they’re back in class. For an example, see the pathway Tools and Techniques in Biotechnology: Gel Electrophoresis.

A high school student in this class is empowered to take control of her own learning

This 11th grader was introduced to LabXchange by her life sciences teacher, but she’s interested in exploring further and learning more about genetics. While she considered taking an online course in the past, she found she didn’t have the time to commit to an entire course over several weeks. But she notices how the material on LabXchange is broken down into smaller pieces, enabling her to create her own learning pathway for the time she has available.

Given the functionality required to create a pathway is quite simple, she does so by grabbing a video story of a geneticist who looks like her, combines it with two simulations, and adds a scrollable interactive.

She then reaches out to an undergraduate through the platform who has made herself available for mentoring (one who did research in genetics through the Amgen Scholars Program), and they discuss her pathway and other learning assets she might take advantage of.

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