Frequently Asked Questions About the Virtual Labs


1. Who may subscribe to the Virtual Labs?

High school and college teachers and administrators, as well as home-schooling parents or guardians, may subscribe to the Labs. Middle school teachers might also find the virtual lab apparatus useful, but we have not yet created lab activities for students in that age group.

2. What’s included in the Virtual Labs?

  • 21 virtual labs (sets of apparatus), with more being added as they are developed
  • Sample lab activities for most labs
  • Teacher versions of lab activities with answer keys

3. Can students use the labs at home?

Yes. Students are given their own accounts and can log in from any computer.

4. Can the labs be used offline?

No. They are copyrighted technology only available online by subscription. They cannot be copied or duplicated in any way.

5. Can students access them on mobile platforms?

Because the labs are Flash-based, they are only accessible via computers and any tablet device other than an iPad, which doesn’t play Flash objects. However, the labs are really not suitable for any screen smaller than a computer screen because of their complexity and detail.

6. How much does it cost to license the Virtual Labs?

You’ll find this information at the Pricing tab. You will notice that there’s a school licensing fee and a per-student fee, but no additional charges for teachers.

7. Can I purchase a permanent copy of the labs?

No, they only can be licensed on a year-to-year basis.

8. How can I sign up for a free trial license?

Link to the Free Trial tab and follow the instructions. Free trials last for 60 days and allow you and your students to test all the features of the labs.

9. How do I purchase a site license?

Once you sign up for a free trial license, several new tabs will appear, including a Purchase License tab. You can purchase a lab license at any time during your free trial.

10. How long does a license last?

Licenses are valid from the time you purchase them up until the start of the following school year. In other words, if you buy a license for the 2013-2014 school year, it will be valid until your school’s start date in fall 2014. If you buy it during the summer, you can start using it right away. You don’t have to wait until school starts to begin working with it. In fact, we encourage you to start early so you can get ready to use the labs.

11. How do I set up the Virtual Labs program at my school?

When you sign up for a free trial, you’ll see a tab called Teacher Tools. That’s where you go to manage your classes or sections, set up new sections, invite students to a section, and invite other teachers to a section. You’ll also see a link at the Teacher Tools page to a PDF that provides step-by-step, illustrated instructions for setting up your program.

12. What level students are these labs designed for?

The labs, which were initially developed for KET’s distance learning physics classes, are designed for high school physics students and sophomore-level college physics courses. At present, no lab activities have been developed for younger students, although the labs potentially could be useful for helping them understand physical principles as well.

13. What are alternative uses for the labs in the physics classroom?

  • Pre-lab activities for use with any type of lab
  • Pre-class activities to introduce concepts
  • After-class concept development or extension activities
  • Adding simulations to homework to make it more meaningful
  • Concept development demonstration tools using a projection system
  • Small group Smartboard activities

14. What’s planned for the future?

We are always working on developing new labs, and we hope to add several new ones in 2013. We are also writing more accompanying lab activities, both for new and existing labs. Plans are underway to create a forum where teachers can communicate with each other and upload and download their own lab activities.

15. How were the labs created? By whom?

KET physics teacher Chuck Duncan initially developed the labs to accompany his online physics courses. Although the labs are still an integral part of those courses, their usefulness for physics instruction in brick-and-mortar schools has led KET to offer them as stand-alone resources. The Flash-based labs were built with help from three young programmers, Nathan Pinney, Brian Vincent, and Tim Martin, all of whom graduated in physics from the University of Kentucky.

16. How do I comment on the labs, submit suggestions, or ask about bugs and other problems on the website?

Write to Chuck Duncan or Brian Vincent at virtuallabs@ket.org.

17. Is there a way for users to share their experiences and their lab activities with other users?

See “What’s planned for the future?” (Question 14) above.

18. What are the terms of use?

Schools purchase one-year, renewable licenses. The labs can be used by both students and teachers, and there is no additional cost for adding more teachers to the license. See Pricing tab for more details.