Labster, our Speaking Sponsor for the 6th Innovative Learning Spaces Summit, shares their thoughts on the 4 ways that virtual simulations drive engagement. Continue reading:


Engaged students perform better against metrics of classroom achievement and are more satisfied with their education (Farrell & Brunton, 2020). They also graduate at higher rates than their less engaged counterparts. With a new school year upon us, now is the time to establish a pandemic-proof strategy for student engagement.


The Challenge of Getting Learners Engaged Online


The reasons why engagement falls short in online settings are complex and varied. Students who struggle with organization, autonomy, and time management tend to struggle more online, while many learners suffer from a lack of baseline digital skills.

After more than a year of pandemic learning, the risks of remote learning are becoming well known. So are the opportunities, leading many universities to take a wider view of where remote learning fits into their student experience.


4 Ways that Virtual Simulations Drive Engagement

Simulations use virtual environments to immerse students in subject matter and provide hands-on experiential learning within interactive virtual environments. While traditional lectures and assessment formats can lose their luster online, evidence is emerging that virtual simulations offer opportunities to match and surpass classroom engagement with new experiences that would be otherwise impossible in a traditional classroom.

1. Immersion is key to successful remote learning.

It is possible to watch a class lecture. You can watch from the back row of the room or you can watch a video recording. But It’s not possible to watch a simulation - you have to really participate in it.

Virtual learning falters in passive learning models, but simulations excel because they use technology to immerse students into subject matter. Immersion is measured by how much an experience offers students agency and a sense of presence in their virtual environment (Makransky & Petersen, 2021). The more completely a simulation engages students’ senses and affords them control over their virtual environments, the more they engage and the better their learning outcomes.

Engagement matters. We’re proud to say that 96% of our customers agree that Labster helps engage their students and improve their learning outcomes. Even more significantly, recent studies that compared students’ learning outcomes before and after using Labster found that students’ scores increased by one letter grade with Labster science simulations.

2. Simulations drive intuitive learning by reducing Cognitive Load

Cognitive Load (CL) refers to how much information a learner must retain to solve a problem. By extending beyond verbal and written communication, virtual simulations reduce cognitive load by engaging students through a more intuitive sensory experience (Makransky & Petersen, 2021). Virtual environments provide students with a more innate understanding of situational problems, freeing up cognitive space to problem solve.

3. Virtual labs break physical boundaries

Advanced learning simulations offer experiences that would otherwise be constrained by university resources. These simulations break financial and geographical barriers, so that universities aren’t just reaching more students, but taking those students to more places. For example, Labster virtual science labs take students from an advanced laboratory setting to settings as diverse as research stations in Antarctica and the surface of the planet Mars.

4. Where traditional online courses wrestle with autonomy, simulators excel

Students who struggle with self-reliance often find themselves in over their heads in online courses. However, simulations have the opposite effect. Computer-based simulations have been shown to increase self-efficacy by as much as 20 percent (Makransky & Petersen, 2021). In other words, as many students falter in the age of remote learning, virtual simulations offer an opportunity to flip the script and support students to achieve even better outcomes.


Curious about how to get your online students more engaged? Visit to find out how we support educators with immersive science simulations.


Join Labster at the 6th Innovative Learning Spaces Summit on September 15th-17th, request a free brochure to see the full topic lineup, and get your last-minute ticket today!



References in this article:
Farrell, O. & Brunton, J. (2020). A balancing act: a window into online student engagement experiences. Int J Educ Technol High Educ 17 (25). 

Govindarajan, V. & Srivastava, A. (2020, March 31). What the Shift to Virtual Learning Could Mean for the Future of Higher Ed. Harvard Business Review, 31.

 Makransky, G., & Petersen, G. B. (2021). The Cognitive Affective Model of Immersive Learning (CAMIL): a Theoretical Research-Based Model of Learning in Immersive Virtual Reality. Educational Psychology Review, 1-22.