An Innovator in Delivering Creative Science Solutions Online
Download our NANSLO brochure.
The North American Network of Science Labs Online (NANSLO), with WICHE as its hub, was an international consortium of online science laboratories operated by accredited institutions in the U.S. and Canada.
NANSLO provided students located anywhere in the world with access to science laboratories via the Internet. Students used a web-enabled interface to control robotics connected to high quality scientific equipment to perform activities and collect data for assigned lab activities. Student teams collaborated using a teleconferencing capability, each student sharing control of the equipment and observing the activity via quality video streaming capabilities and engaging in the scientific process by interpreting, predicting, classifying, modeling, and drawing conclusions from data collected. This online experience in real time using real high-quality scientific equipment, supported by a live lab technician, facilitated collaboration among the student teams while giving each student the opportunity to actively engage in the learning experience.
NANSLO laboratories successfully operated at community colleges in Colorado, Montana, and British Columbia between 2011 and 2016 and served over 2,000 students during that time. Feedback from students was positive noting flexibility in scheduling labs at a time convenient for them and the ease of collaboration and interaction as key benefits. Instructors found it a valuable tool for online students to be able to complete science courses and reduce the strain on over extended physical laboratories.
A total of 28 NANSLO lab activities for introductory biology, chemistry, and physics courses that complemented NANSLO’s online environment were developed as well as lab manuals for two courses – Survey of Chemistry and Survey of Biology. Each lab manual contains 10 lab activities. All NANSLO activities developed by science instructors are available for use, subject to Creative Commons CC BY attribution 3.0 United States License 3.
Automating the lab reservation process was a critical component for the coordination of multiple laboratories (Nodes) and multiple institutions serving a large number of students at any given time and located across the country and internationally. In response to this need, WICHE developed a sophisticated scheduling system that allowed instructors and/or administrators at participating laboratories to reserve blocks of time during which their students could carry out assigned student labs in teams just as they do in a physical lab. The system allowed each student to schedule a lab time during the allocated block and to easily access NANSLO’s laboratories at the reserved time. Via the scheduling system’s dashboard, instructors could login and view key student data validating each student’s participation in the assigned lab activity. The system also included several billing and payment options to be used in transitioning from grant supported operations to a fee-for-service basis for continued financial viability. All three Nodes had access to the NANSLO Scheduling System.
Original funding for NANSLO’s formation came from a Next Generation Learning Challenge (NGLO) grant (2010-2011) with further expansion of NANSLO taking place between 2012 and 2016 through a U.S. Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant to the Consortium for Healthcare Education Online (CHEO). Faculty and students at eight-member community colleges of the Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders in five states (AK, CO, MT, SD, WY) participated.
Although NANSLO was an exciting, viable option for institutions, instructors and students (and still is!), moving from a free, grant-funded service to a fee-driven service proved challenging in the timeline available. As a result, lack of further funding resulted in NANSLO closing its laboratories. However, many resources, including knowledge on how to establish a web-based science laboratory and lessons learned in the development and operation of this cutting-edge capability, are available in the NANSLO Project Summary and on the Skills Commons repository and through WICHE contacts.
For more information about NANSLO, download the project summary with links to lab activities, handbooks, and more.
Additional questions on NANSLO can be sent to Kay Hulstrom at firstname.lastname@example.org.