Harvard University, the Amgen Foundation, and edX announced the creation of the LabXchange online platform, which transforms access to the scientific process by integrating digital instruction, interactivity, and online networking focused on collaboration and mentoring opportunities.
“An authentic understanding of science is inextricably linked to the doing of science,” said MCB Professor of the Practice and faculty director of the LabXchange Robert Lue. “If we are to increase the number of young people going on in science, we need more effective and accessible ways for students of all backgrounds to experience the scientific process.”
Many young learners lack guidance and mentorship in the scientific process. Harvard, a leading academic institution in molecular and cellular biology, and the Foundation, the philanthropic arm of a leading global corporation in the field of biotechnology, have partnered to address this important gap.
“Even in situations where a student has access to hands-on lab experiences, inadequate preparation limits their positive impact, and for the many millions that don’t have such access, there is virtually no opportunity to learn from the experience of research,” added Lue. “The LabXchange online platform, which will be developed at Harvard with support from the Amgen Foundation, addresses this issue by providing more flexibly useful background materials, dynamic research simulations, and social networking built around the scientific process.”
LabXchange will provide background content in biology and research methodology, coupled with interactive learning pathways and simulations that allow students to test their understanding in virtual experiments. A complementary LabXchange social learning network will provide teachers and students with ways to connect and share materials curated from the LabXchange repository, as well as their own research experiences in the form of case studies.
The high-quality content combined with the sharing capabilities of social networking will allow LabXchange to integrate knowledge-based preparation for lab research with the benefits of human-based mentoring and sharing, a key metric of connectedness. EdX, as the largest online learning platform in the world with 35 million users, is uniquely positioned to join with Harvard and Amgen to address this need for advances in the online delivery of science education.
“EdX is delighted to be a part of this groundbreaking initiative, which aligns completely with edX’s mission to increase access to high-quality education for all learners, everywhere,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO. “Working with Harvard and Amgen will allow us to develop a platform that not only creates positive outcomes for learners looking to engage in the field of scientific research, but expands innovative online learning experiences that are flexible, personalized and adaptive on a global scale.”
LabXchange is built on the Open edX platform, and its development will contribute to the ongoing evolution of the Open edX code base. This will begin with the development of Blockstore — a new system for storing, discovering and accessing learning content in Open edX. The Blockstore architecture presents content as an accessible repository of independently useful learning experiences (e.g. interactive exercises, simulations, etc.), thereby providing a flexible foundation for content reuse, sharing, and adaptive learning pathways. There will also be other open source contributions to the core functionality of Open edX, which could impact more than 35 million learners around the world.
LabXchange builds on two successful programs also supported by the Amgen Foundation, the Amgen Biotech Experience and the Amgen Scholars Program. The former enriches lab experiences in the high school curriculum, while the latter expands opportunities for college students to work in research labs. Current participants and alumni of both programs are working with the LabXchange team to give feedback on the design of the LabXchange platform and its use to support pre-lab preparation in high schools and college. Professor Lue and MCB colleague, Tara Bennett Bristow have worked closely with the Amgen Biotech Experience and lead the Massachusetts site for 7 years.
LabXchange is inviting interested high school teachers, graduate students, and other subject matter experts to collaborate with us on the content and offer feedback on the platform. The LabXchange team invites the MCB community to get in touch!