Are virtual physiology laboratories effective for student learning? A systematic review

Xinyu Zhang, Dawoud Al-Mekhled, Julia Choate

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


It is unclear if the transition from traditional, in-person physiology laboratories to virtual alternatives has educational impacts on students. This study used a systematic review to critically evaluate research papers that investigated the effectiveness of virtual physiology laboratories for student learning. Eleven studies, retrieved from the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) and Ovid MEDLINE databases, were selected for inclusion in this review, based on predetermined eligibility criteria. Subsequently, the studies went through a power analysis for potential biases before their results were synthesized and analyzed. This systematic review found that virtual physiology laboratories are effective for students' learning of concepts. However, it was inconclusive as to whether virtual physiology laboratories are effective for students' motivation for learning and learning of technical skills. It was found that blended models of virtual laboratories are at least as effective as in-person laboratories for conceptual learning. Overall, this systematic review provides useful insights for educators regarding the educational impacts of implementing virtual laboratories into the physiology curriculum and suggests research models for future evaluation of virtual laboratories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-480
Number of pages14
JournalAdvances in Physiology Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021


  • physiology
  • simulation
  • undergraduate
  • virtual laboratory

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