For learners in an online laboratory course, access to a compound microscope may be quite challenging. Fiber Science, a course at NC State University, is taught both in a classroom laboratory as well as fully online, and requires students to learn the parts of a compound microscope and to demonstrate an understanding of how these parts work.
The solution provides both a web-based option, developed using a game engine called Unity 3D, and a mobile option. In either space users interact with a 3D model of a compound microscope, the centerpiece of the app, where users explore by touch, by panning and zooming in on various parts of the microscope, and by dragging and moving it around in 3D space on their screen. Users read names and descriptions and watch and listen to video demonstrations of the various parts of the microscope. The mobile option also allows those students who are in the laboratory version of the course to bring their smartphone into the laboratory where they get hands-on experience with a compound microscope. This supports just-in-time learning, where learners simultaneously explore the actual microscope while interacting with the mobile app to learn functions and part names. Just-in-time learning is a great use of a mobile device!
Explore the online version: https://go.distance.ncsu.edu/microexplorer/
(Requires a free download of Unity 3D)