The requirements to become a laboratory technician are vast. Aspiring apprentices must show an interest in research and experimentation, possess extraordinary observation skills, be enduring and patient and demonstrate the ability for networked thinking just to name a few (source:

These attributes are simultaneously the prerequisites and the promoted skills for participants within the framework of the project ChemLab. We therefore liaise with teachers of lab technicians in order to find innovative ways to  make use of the natural curiosity of their students and the scientific methods to enhance critical thinking sills.

Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

In collaboration with teachers at GIBB (vocational school Bern), we have designed an IBL task involving an interactive simulation. The students were asked to experiment with different components of a virtual laboratory in order to explore the Beer-Lambert Law, which describes the attenuation of light travelling through a substance.

User interface of the PhET Beer’s Law Lab with interactive components: container with adjustable width (a), drop-down menu for substance selection (b), slider to adjust substance concentration (c), light source with adjustable wavelength (d), probe to measure transmittance/absorbance of the substance (e), and ruler to measure the container width (f).

The apprentices were asked to rank four different configurations of a substance in a container by the absorbance measured. To prevent them from solving the task by simply replicating the four configurations in the simulation, the values for molar concentration and optical path length were chosen such that they could not be selected in the interface. Instead, they had to independently elaborate an inquiry approach in order to understand the underlying concepts and to propose a ranking solution.

Following the classroom studies at GIBB, professional schools all over Switzerland tested the learning opportunity with their lab technician apprentices.

The schools highlighted in red have already participated in the project

The invaluable feedback of students and teachers alike as well as the generated data will allow us to conduct research and to drastically improve the learning experience in the next version of the simulation.


We are currently analyzing the apprentices’ interaction logs using data mining methods to better understand individual learning behavior in digital IBL environments. This could eventually promote personalized learning experiences and help more apprentices to attain the intended learning outcomes. This is crucial in order to provide learning experiences that are not only fun but also pedagogically meaningful.