K12 Virtual Labs: Biology

In science courses, laboratory activities are implemented to develop and reinforce knowledge and skills that support mastery of lesson objectives. During lab investigations, students apply the scientific method, responding to questions by formulating hypotheses, gathering necessary materials, following procedures, using tools and equipment, gathering and analyzing data, and drawing conclusions. In online courses, the lab experience includes hands-on activities as well as virtual experiences in a laboratory-like setting. A virtual lab provides the student with a virtual experience that engages him/her in a realistic manner while maintaining the integrity of a similar hands-on lab activity.

Features of K12 Virtual Labs

  • Data are available to students in ways that are similar to a hands-on lab. Data uncertainties, sometimes random, are introduced into the programming to provide a realistic data collection experience. For example, data may be based on known characteristics of equipment, such as the internal resistance of a battery.
  • A virtual lab has the look and feel of a hands-on lab. Content and design factors are carefully considered, in order to achieve a high degree of verisimilitude, the quality of realism, in every virtual lab K12 creates.
  • A virtual lab is part of a lesson. It is used as a tool for observation and data collection, and it is immersed in instructional content with relevant concepts and other learning objects such as videos and animations.

Sample Virtual Labs: Biology

Investigating Biological Compounds


Residents in a small rural community notice a strange smell coming from a nearby lake and invite scientists to investigate further. How can compounds in the water be identified? Are the compounds organic? If so, what are they? Scientists use various chemical indicators to test for organic compounds. In this lab, the student is the scientist conducting tests.

Learning Objectives

  • Explain that various tests can be used to detect the presence of certain macromolecules.
  • Experiment with various chemical indicators to determine the presence or absence of macromolecules.


Students conduct tests to detect the presence of starch, protein, and lipids. This reinforces procedural knowledge and the association of certain "test compounds" with what they test for. If students do not perform the investigation or protocols correctly, results will vary. For example, if a pipette is reused, the resulting contamination will be reflected in lab results.

Prior to the virtual lab, three introductory screens set the stage for the investigation. These materials are included: student guide, lab procedure, and a teacher guide. The assessment is a series of questions associated with specific lesson objectives.

View this Virtual Lab: Investigating Biological Compounds

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Observing Mitosis


Every day, billions of new cells are produced, so mitosis occurs billions of times. Whether it's for new skin cells, muscle cells, or onion root cells, the process of mitosis is the same. In this lab, the student observes chromosomes and identifies specific steps in the process of mitosis.

Learning Objectives

  • Observe the stages of mitosis in a slide of an onion root tip (provided).


The student works with a virtual microscope that functions in a realistic manner, using the microscope correctly to observe different stages of mitosis. The virtual lab is part of a larger laboratory lesson that includes important biology concepts and skills.

Prior to the lab, several screens of introductory information and interactive learning objects prepare the student for the virtual experience. These materials are included in the lab: student guide, lab procedure, teacher guide. The assessment is an online discussion that asks students to share lab findings and observations; the teacher will guide and monitor this discussion.

View this Virtual Lab: Observing Mitosis

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