Journal of Formative Design in Learning

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 62–81 | Cite as

Development of an Online Experiment Platform for High School Biology

  • Dimitri V. Blondel
  • Anna Sansone
  • Joshua M Rosenberg
  • Elizabeth A Godin
  • Brenda W. Yang
  • Lawson T. Jaglom-Kurtz
  • Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia
  • Rochelle D. Schwartz-BloomEmail author


We developed a novel online platform, Rex (Real experiments), that immerses students in a scientific investigative process. Rex is a virtual Web-based biological science experiment platform, hosted by real scientists and uses actual lab experiments that generate real data for students to collect, analyze, and interpret. Seven neuroscience experiments use zebrafish and rats as model systems to study the effects of drugs such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), caffeine, alcohol, and cigarette smoke, which are of interest to high school students. We carried out a small field test of Rex in a variety of high school biology classrooms (e.g., standard, honors, AP, anatomy/physiology) to obtain student and teacher feedback about the implementation and usability of the program. We also assessed student situational interest (SI) to determine whether the Rex experiment captured students’ attention, and whether it was an enjoyable and meaningful experience. Overall, students reported a moderate level of SI after participating in the Rex experiments. Situational interest did not differ across teachers, class section, class level, or the type of experiment. In addition, we present details of the technical issues encountered in the classroom, and we provide guidance to readers who may want to use the resource in their classrooms.


Online lab experiments High school biology Virtual experiments Neuroscience Drugs Situational interest 



We thank J. Alvarado, G. Anderson, L. Cantin, J. Child, A. Eily, G. Gedman, S. Maurer, A. Oliveri, N. Parikh, and E. Petter for serving as the scientist-hosts in the Rex videos. Thanks to C. Wells for help performing the Rex experiments and to K. Tsukayama for videography and editing. A special thanks goes to R. Borczuk for help with several aspects of the project. This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Science Education Drug Abuse Partnership Award (SEDAPA) R25 DA 35133 to RDS.


This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Science Education Drug Abuse Partnership Award (SEDAPA) R25 DA 35133 .

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. IRB approval for exempt research with human subjects was obtained from the Duke University Medical Center Institutional Review Board (#Pro00043061) prior to beginning the project. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

41686_2019_30_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (8.2 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 8.18 MB )


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications & Technology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dimitri V. Blondel
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anna Sansone
    • 3
  • Joshua M Rosenberg
    • 3
    • 4
  • Elizabeth A Godin
    • 1
  • Brenda W. Yang
    • 5
  • Lawson T. Jaglom-Kurtz
    • 1
  • Lisa Linnenbrink-Garcia
    • 3
  • Rochelle D. Schwartz-Bloom
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology & Cancer BiologyDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  3. 3.Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology, & Special EducationMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  4. 4.Department of Theory & Practice in Teacher EducationThe University of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  5. 5.Department of Psychology & NeuroscienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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