The Silicon Review
It’s safe to say that the way science is taught to students worldwide is outdated. Labster was established by co-founders Michael Bodekaer Jensen and Mads Tvillinggaard Bonde in 2012 to change this traditional approach, to make science education accessible to any student with an internet connection and a laptop.
Labster’s mission is to spread the excitement of STEM to all students. The company’s immersive technology creates the opportunities of an advanced laboratory without schools having to spend millions of dollars on constructing and stocking the facilities. Labster’s easy accessibility through the internet creates a collaborative space for all of the students in a large class to practice immersive simulations labs simultaneously. This way, students are not just sitting in front of the computer watching a video of someone lecturing them – they’re engaged and playing, which results in motivation. Additionally, Labster saves instructors valuable time by automatically grading embedded quiz questions and giving students the background knowledge and practice they need to avoid common, time-consuming mistakes that extend the duration of lab periods.
The effectiveness of the Labster method has been proven in multiple studies, including 14 research studies published between 2014 and 2021 in peer-reviewed journals. These studies, four of which were random control trials (RCTs), included over 1,600 high school and undergraduate students from the USA and Denmark studying biology, life sciences, and genetics. For example, Labster served as the basis for an RCT study published by Nature Biotechnology Engineering that found that gamified laboratory simulation used alone led to significantly improved learning outcomes (76% higher score) compared with traditional teaching and achieved an even greater boost (101%) when combined with traditional teaching. This suggests an untapped potential for increasing the skills of science students and graduates.
But how does Labster achieve this? Labster creates virtual labs to support the increasingly complex science curriculum through game-based learning, engaging stories, and 3D visualizations that engage students’ interest in learning at a deeper level. Labster currently offers more than 270 STEM curriculum-aligned virtual lab simulations in biology, biochemistry, genetics, biotechnology, chemistry, physics, and more. These immersive 3D simulations are developed by scientists, game designers, artists, and educators to provide hands-on experiences that foster engaged learning and facilitate critical thinking, problem-solving, analysis, and synthesis, all without the risks inherent in a physical lab.
In late 2021, Labster acquired virtual reality (VR) provider, Ubisim, to support nursing programs with virtual simulations for both early and advanced nursing education. This will improve access to high-quality nursing education on a global level which is essential to meet the critical nursing shortage.
We recently interviewed Michael Bodekaer Jensen, Co-founder and CEO of Labster, to learn more about the company and its work. Read on for the excerpts from the interview.
Q. How is Labster challenging the status quo?
Educational opportunities in STEM are often unequally distributed due to limited resources, tight budgets, and inequality of access. Labster proudly democratizes science by giving – any student with a laptop – the ability to experience advanced, virtual labs regardless of their background or location. Labster simulations lower the cost and time spent by instructors to prepare students for lab time, increase access to practice materials, and improve equity in science education. Students benefit from Labster’s adaptive learning opportunities with instant feedback to conduct realistic experiments, study essential science topics, and practice their skills in a risk-free setting. We encourage all students to virtually access and explore science in the hopes of inspiring the next generation of scientists.
But Labster doesn’t aspire to completely replace in-person labs. We help students prepare with pre- and post-lab training, just as flight simulators reinforce actual flight practice. Labster offers truly disruptive innovation in the virtual learning space because we encourage student participation, conceptual understanding, and accessibility, and represent a shift toward more equality in science education.
Q. Who and where can one access your virtual science labs?
Labster’s simulations can be found on www.labster.com. Educators may sign up for a free trial through the website. Students can make an account with the information provided by their instructor before they start exploring.
Q. Could you tell us about the work culture at Labster?
Empowering the next generation of scientists to change the world is what drives every Labster employee, whether in one of our offices in the US, Denmark, Switzerland, and Indonesia, or working remotely from far-flung corners of the globe. We have a flat-hierarchy system that is focused on motivation and results. Our 350-person team of 30+ nationalities is hardworking, creative, and responsible, inspiring each other to succeed. We believe in flexible work hours and a good work-life balance, as it’s incredibly important for us to have happy team members whether in Bali or Boston.
Q. Congratulations on ten years of innovation in STEM education. What does the road ahead look like for Labster?
We are thrilled to have passed our tenth anniversary and are continuing to innovate. Labster currently supports more than 3,000 educational institutions and 5 million student users around the world. We have an ambitious roadmap for further development in Europe and the United States and to establish ourselves within Asia and Latin America. We’re also investing more into the Labster library of science simulations and expanding our reach to younger students and the adult workforce through new skills training verticals. We’re on track to reach 100 million learners around the world through our institutional and government partnerships.
About the Leader
Michael Bodekaer Jensen, Co-founder and CEO
A self-taught computer scientist and software architect, Michael has designed several large-scale enterprise software solutions within communications, gaming, and education. He is a serial entrepreneur, having previously founded a half-dozen education and productivity software startups, leveraging his management consulting expertise acquired at McKinsey & Company. Michael holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, with additional graduate studies at Harvard University. He earned Master of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees in finance from the Copenhagen Business School. He is a member of Founders Pledge, the global community of entrepreneurs finding and funding solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. A native of Denmark, Michael speaks seven languages.