The Innovation: North American Network of Science Labs Online (NANSLO)
National priority continues to drive STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education at colleges and universities, but building costs and budget constraints can hamper institutional efforts to meet resultant laboratory needs. Online science labs offer a flexible environment and scheduling alternative.
Enter the North American Network of Science Labs Online (NANSLO), a consortium of U.S. and Canadian postsecondary institutions and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). The consortium provides online access to high-power microscopes, spectrometers, and other equipment as well as openly licensed biology, chemistry, and physics gatekeeper course curriculum that incorporate NANSLO lab activities.
SRI, the project evaluator, reports that almost 900 students conducted NANSLO experiments during the grant program. The carefully constructed online laboratory procedures can achieve scientific goals that are equivalent to the traditional use of the same equipment. Indeed, the quality of NANSLO lab measurements is often much higher than lab kits, giving students the opportunity to calculate meaningful results that can be compared to standards...in other words, NANSLO enables students to connect their lab results with “real life.”
Long term Goals:
- To expand the consortium membership by establishing more NANSLO Nodes (lab locations)
- To leverage the knowledge gained in using innovative technologies to expand the number of lab activities offered online
- To create efficiencies and value that attracts institutions to use NANSLO. For example, the NANSLO Network Scheduling System allows institutions/faculty to make reservations, and students to access the assigned Node seamlessly
- To serve more students through implementation of these and other innovations
The Grant Project:
Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) received a Building Blocks for College Completion program grant from NGLC in April 2011.
WICHE used NGLC funds to complete the following activities:
- Created the NANSLO consortium
- Established a NANSLO node in Denver
- Developed three openly licensed core courses and six remote NANLO lab activities in introductory biology, chemistry, and physics
- Create faculty training materials
In addition, the project developed a multi-tiered governance structure to ensure all consortium participants’ input, involvement, and alignment with project goals. An unanticipated consequence was the formation of a close-knit faculty community that continues to work together to promote online laboratory science.
Since the grant period, NANSLO now works on the Consortium for Healthcare Education Online (CHEO) project to convert allied health courses to an online/hybrid format. To support this new project, the consortium expanded its openly-licensed lab activities:
- Enhanced the six labs developed for the NGLC grant
- Deployed a faculty experimentation “sandbox”
- Established a new node and enhanced other nodes
- Colorado Community College System
- Colorado School of Mines
- Montana State University-Great Falls College of Technology
- Laramie County Community College (WY)
- Montana State University-Bozeman
- University of Wyoming/Casper Center