Teaching Soft Skills with Science in VR Labs, with Labster CEO Michael Jensen

Science poses a challenge in capturing kids’ interest, exacerbated by the high cost of materials. This is where Labster steps in, gamifying the experience through digital labs while imparting life skills.

Julie: Greetings to the XR for Learning Podcast. I’m Julie Smithson, and today I’m joined by Michael Bodekaer Jensen from Labster. Michael is a visionary entrepreneur and the founder of various technology companies, including Labster. Labster is a dynamic, award-winning company revolutionizing the teaching of science and lab safety globally. The platform offers an advanced virtual laboratory simulator, enabling students and employees to tackle real-life challenges in a stimulating online environment. Welcome, Michael.

Michael: Thank you, Julie. It’s an honor to be here. Your introduction covered many points I wanted to share.

Julie: Fantastic. Could you share more about Labster and its offerings in today’s educational landscape?

Michael: Labster’s overarching goal is to empower the next generation of scientists to address global challenges. We believe that solving major issues, like climate change, requires numerous young, bright minds collaborating and innovating. When we started Labster nine years ago, our aim was to inspire students, instill belief in their problem-solving abilities, and provide the skills and knowledge needed to contribute to solving global challenges. We observed that traditional science education was struggling to engage students due to its perceived dullness and high cost. Leveraging my gaming industry background, we envisioned creating a science “flight simulator” using innovative gaming technologies and designs to make science education more enjoyable. Labster, in essence, is a flight simulator for science, offering immersive experiences, interactive animations, and scenarios where students can apply their knowledge to address real-world challenges. Machine learning and AI are integrated to optimize the learning experience. In essence, Labster is a complex solution designed to transform science education.

Julie: You touched on the development of soft skills in your programs. Could you elaborate on how Labster focuses on nurturing these skills?

Michael: Indeed, soft skills are crucial, and we particularly emphasize curiosity. While not a direct soft skill, fostering curiosity can drive other essential learning aspects. Our simulations, each lasting around 25 minutes, guide students through missions, dialogues, challenges, and laboratory work. The narratives encourage curiosity as students interact with characters, collaborate with other players, and reflect on their experiences. We also intentionally introduce failure in virtual environments, allowing students to learn through setbacks. Encouraging failure is a valuable social skill, helping students develop resilience and learn from mistakes. Teachers receive detailed reports on student performance, aiding them in tailoring their teaching to address specific challenges. By promoting curiosity, collaboration, and self-reflection, Labster aims to nurture a range of soft skills.

Julie: The convergence of science, gaming, and education is fascinating. Given your background in gaming, how does this blend contribute to engaging students?

Michael: Gaming holds untapped potential in education. Labster collaborates closely with learning experts in game design, learning sciences, and pedagogy, alongside subject matter experts. By combining these distinct skill sets, we create immersive and engaging learning experiences. Gamification helps maintain student engagement, making learning enjoyable. Furthermore, we acknowledge the pivotal role of teachers in guiding students through these simulations. Labster provides teachers with reports, allowing them to understand students’ struggles and tailor their teaching accordingly. The use of big data and analytics in education is transforming the learning landscape. The engagement aspect is often underestimated, but making learning interesting is crucial in a world where students are constantly bombarded with exciting stimuli. Labster strives to create impactful collaborations and transform education by combining these diverse elements.

Julie: Your focus on remote education and reaching students globally is commendable. Could you share more about the projects aimed at providing access to quality science education in remote areas?

Michael: One of Labster’s significant motivations is the potential impact on remote and low-income areas with limited access to laboratory facilities. By utilizing virtual training, we can overcome the challenges posed by a lack of physical labs. Labster collaborates with donors, corporations, and organizations to roll out laptops to schools in low-income areas. For instance, in Nigeria, we’re working with donors to install Labster as an alternative to physical labs, enhancing science education and impacting infrastructure development. This approach extends worldwide, with partnerships involving corporate social responsibility initiatives and donors supporting access to quality science education. We’re currently working with the Danish government to empower over 300,000 students across the country. The impact is substantial, with learning outcomes doubling in various studies, and a significant decrease in dropout rates, such as the case where a university witnessed a 15% drop in dropout rates.

Julie: The positive impact on student engagement and learning outcomes is impressive. Finally, how can individuals access Labster?

Michael: Interested individuals can visit www.Labster.com. For further inquiries, feel free to email me at [email protected]. Labster extends its offerings to corporate training, empowering large companies to train their employees. We’re open to collaboration worldwide and eager to explore how Labster can be a transformative force in education.

Julie: Thank you, Michael, for joining us on the XR for Learning podcast.

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