Here below, the paper’s abstract:
“COVID-19 pandemic has brought uncertainty in educational response, skilling methods, and training practices among teachers and institutions. Even before the pandemic shutdowns, the incorporation of virtual laboratories within classroom education had brought transformations in teaching laboratory courses. Virtual laboratories were integrated as training platforms for complementing learning objectives in laboratory education especially during this pandemic imposed shutdown. In context of suspended face-to-face teaching, this study explores the role of virtual laboratories as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in ensuring the continuity of teaching–learning, providing alternative ways for skill training from home. As an innovative approach, the study presents push–pull mooring theory to analyze switching intention of users from offline conventional education to online education. The study explores the complements of physical experiments brought in with animations, simulations, and remote laboratory set-ups for providing skill trainings to learners. To test whether virtualization techniques have global impact in education sector, the study included a comparative analysis of student users during the academic year 2019 (before-COVID) who had a blended approach of learning and those of the year 2020 (post-COVID), with remote learning. Initial before-COVID behavioral analysis on university students (n = 1059) indicated the substantial popularity of virtual laboratories in education for skill training and instructor dependency. Usage adoption of virtual laboratories increased during the pandemic-imposed lockdowns and learners were being less instructor dependent. 24% of students accessed more 10 times a week without the instructor being present and overall, 90% contributed to a minimum of 5 usages a week. In terms of Kolb’s learning styles, most of the virtual laboratory learners were assimilators. The results suggest virtual laboratories may have a prominent role in inquiry based and self-guided education with minimum instructor dependency, which may be crucial for complementing practice skills and planning online tools to add to this post-COVID-19 teaching and learning scenarios”.