Virtual Laboratory

Virtual environments, simulating real-life scientific laboratories

Area of application

Virtual laboratories can be used in trainings to simulate real-life laboratory environments, where students can apply their theoretical knowledge in practical ways such as conducting exercises or experiments and performing various procedures.  Virtual laboratories can be an alternative to in-person hands-on laboratory trainings in the context of a pandemic (due to travel restrictions and social distancing requirements). They can also be a valuable addition to theoretical trainings, engaging the trainees, encouraging them to experiment on their own and discover patterns.

Virtual laboratories are available for a wide range of scientific disciplines such as biology, microbiology, physics, chemistry, etc. The number of topics and simulations available online is growing quickly.


There are three types of virtual laboratories:

  • Remote-triggered labs
  • Measurement-based labs
  • Simulation/modelling based labs


Virtual laboratories are highly interactive, allowing the user to remotely handle the laboratory equipment and perform various tasks.

Virtual mode

Virtual laboratories have a number of advantages. First, the health and safety of the laboratory user are not threatened and there is no risk of damaging expensive equipment. Procedures or experiments which in some cases could require hours to complete can be virtually simulated in seconds. While real-life laboratories are expensive to equip and maintain and can accommodate a limited number of trainees at a time, virtual laboratories are easily accessible for everyone with a computer and internet connection. A large number of students can easily be assigned practical exercises which can be flexibly and autonomously completed. Virtual labs can always be equipped with the latest and most modern devices. They allow for effective hands-on learning through repetition of tasks and discovery of certain dependencies, correlations and other patterns.

The disadvantage of virtual laboratories is that the haptic sense of handling the equipment and performing the tasks cannot be reproduced in the virtual environment. In some cases, customization of the simulations or the lab environments might not be possible. Trainers are mostly restricted to the already available simulations and lab settings.


One method is for the trainer to select appropriate exercises, which are aligned with the objectives and topics of the training, from the available libraries. Oftentimes, the activities that accompany the virtual experiments or simulations are not aligned with the objectives of the training to be conducted. The trainer can curate specific experiments or simulation, so that only the activities that fit the training objectives are included. In many cases, the trainer makes his/her own activity that suit the training objectives.

A second approach is for the trainer to develop a new virtual laboratory or setup addressing a specific topic or task. However, this requires technical skills and substantial time investment.

Many virtual laboratories can be embedded into the learning management system.






Virtual laboratories provide flexibility in terms of time as trainees can complete the exercises asynchronously and on their own schedule. Virtual laboratories also save time for the trainers and lab assistants who otherwise have to be present for on-site training sessions and engage in repetitive and routine activities.



The use of virtual laboratories decreases substantially the cost of training as real-life laboratories are expensive to maintain and supply with necessary materials and equipment and there are no travel costs for the trainer. Some virtual laboratories might require subscription fees.



Below is a list of resources for virtual laboratories and modelling simulators.

Virtual laboratories:  




virtually demonstrates tasks and assigns exercises  

completes assigned tasks in the virtual laboratory


Karen Darbinyan

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