Interview | Staying Up with LateNiteLabs

To engage the world in science learning, David Jaffe (pictured, right) created intuitive and affordable online lab experiences for students, enabling them to earn credit toward their degrees. Of greater importance, he hopes his labs encourage exploration, inquiry and ultimately, depth of understanding.

Victor: What is it, exactly? Who made it?

David: Late Nite Labs creates immersive science learning  experiences online. Right now, our products are used as curriculum products in higher education and high schools, in blended learning and online learning settings. As of the fall semester, we’re in about 150 schools across the U.S., with a few international customers as well.

I’m the founder and CEO of Late Nite Labs. The other key members of the management team are Harris Goodman (pictured, middle), Chief of Corporate Development, and Ovi Jacob, Chief Operating Officer (pictured, left).

Victor: What does it do? What are the benefits?

David: Students enter a virtual science lab and perform simulated science experiments, in Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science and Physics. Each lab comes equipped with all the materials, instruments, and chemicals you’d find in a traditional lab, only digital. The labs are  either stationed at a simulated lab bench, or out on location—at a pond, on a glacier or perhaps in a shop.Each lab comes with a guiding ‘lab-notebook’, which contains a background, as well as a framework for the procedures. All 150+ labs in our library are fully customizable.

Some of the benefits are at the students level—engagement, always-on, affordability, and ease of use. There are all institutional benefits, including time restraints, cost efficiency and ease of use. Our content empowers the teacher to use our technology to drive a great science course.

Victor: How is it unique from other similar products/services? What companies do you see as in the same market?  

David: Firstly, a main point of differentiation is that our ‘virtual labs’ are not step by step automated processes. The student is in full control of the environment. Late Nite Labs does not just deliver out-of-the-box virtual science labs—we have built a platform for exploring science in a safe and engaging online environment. For example, if a student doesn’t follow any of the procedures he’s given in the lab manual, he won’t get an error message, he’ll get the result of what he did. Many online labs offer digital microscopes. We go a step further, allowing students to stain and prep their own slides, before loading them onto our microscope.

As well, our labs expose students to lots of science content they would not be able to see in a traditional environment. For example, our bacteria lab might use e-coli, or another dangerous substance. In our Chem lab, it’s not uncommon to see mixtures explode, or smoke up a room. As well, there’s lots of expensive instruments students would not have access to without Late Nite Labs. For example, our DNA labs enable students to conduct electrogel pheresis, and ultimately understand  the outcome of  a paternity test. We think that moves the educational needle.

Victor: When was it developed? What is something interesting or relevant about its development history?

David: Late Nite Labs was actually founded in Israel. The company is now based in NYC, but the development history actually begins in suburban Tel Aviv.

Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?

David: Students purchase access to their unique courses (as designed by their teachers) for $49.95 per semester. There’s no cost for teachers or institutions. We offer 24/7 tech support at no additional cost. There’s no added fees. In the future we’d like to build some consumer options (everything from mobile apps to integrated SmartBoard lessons) which will be priced appropriately to market demand, but right now, all our sales are curriculum tied.

Victor: What are your thoughts on education these days?

David: Education is a great field to be in right now. Change. Excitement. Challenges. It’s all there for the taking. On a more personal note, we’re building something we love and, we hope, making the world a better place at the same time.

One observation we’d point to is that we see lots of innovative edtech companies looking to be “THE PLATFORM FOR…” or the “THE APPSTORE OF…”. We don’t see too many companies actually trying to generate great, new and informative content. That’s an area we feel we can disrupt in, across STEM.

Victor: What is your outlook on the future of education?

David: Stressing inquiry based learning, rather than step-by-step processes. It’s got to adjust to how kids and adults these days live—that means mobile, global and social. And engaging.

Victor: Got a quirky anecdote?

David: Our office is filled with vintage glassware and old lab instrumentation, as well as some off-color science humor posters. Also, at our holiday party, we gave out children’s toys related to each person’s job function—developer’s got legos, marketing people got magic markers, QA got nerf guns.

Victor: Too funny—what did you get?

David: A World Wrestling Championship belt.

——-

Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. He is the editor-in-chief of EdTech Digest, a magazine about education transformed through technology. He also writes white papers, articles and features for schools, nonprofits and companies in the education marketplace. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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