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Instructing students to use virtual experiments

If a student if just presented with a simulation, they need clearly defined actions to do. If they are given a ‘free for all’ approach (such as “explore what happens to the resistance when you change the length of the wire”) then there will be chaos and very little learning.

  1. Set clear learning outcomes for the task and set success criteria (what will be produced).
  2. Explain how they access the simulation (simple link, or more complex log-in).
  3. Explain any new/different terms that might be encountered.
  4. Explain the key variables to be controlled (for example “change voltage with slider”).
  5. Use an annotated screenshot of the simulation if that makes it clearer.
  6. Set a ‘recipe-like’ initial task to ensure students use software correctly.
  7. Then move on to get students to explore certain changes (more scientific enquiry) if required.
  8. Have some debrief after the task is completed and outputs submitted (for example tables/graphs/explanations).
  9. Allow time for discussion with peers/teacher about the results and what they mean.
  10. Build in links to real-life science and how this is used.


For the simulation you found in the last step, produce a simple guidance sheet for students, using some of the ten steps above.

Share your virtual experiment resources and guidance sheets to our Virtual Experiment Padlet, so that other people can use your worksheet as a starting point for theirs.

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This article is from the free online course:

Teaching for Home Learning: Secondary Science

National STEM Learning Centre