Learning with online labs generally means that there is an interaction between extracting information from the lab itself and learning with other, more direct resources. Basically there are two standpoints:
- Labs and/or simulations are best used before other instructional materials (online resources, books, lectures), so that students are sensitive for the information to extract from the expository material.
- Before learning with an online lab, students should have sufficient knowledge to profit from their lab experiences.
As a general recommendation, it seems appropriate to use both approaches. This can be achieved by giving a brief preview of the lab in the orientation phase, so that students can make themselves familiar with the lab and get sensitive for the issues they need to find out. In the conceptualization phase, background information can be presented. This can be done directly in the conceptualization phase by linking to other web sources, or offline in a lecture. In the investigation phase, students then return to the lab and make their full inquiry.