Launch + PLTW: Bringing Virtual Learning To Life

Bringing Virtual Learning to Life One of the biggest components of developing PLTW courses in a virtual format is finding a way to simulate the hands-on experiences. Launch Digital Developer Melissa James shares an example of how we tackle such tasks with the following Murder Mystery assignment, which is given to our Principles of Biomedical Science students on their first day of class.
By Savannah Waszczuk

Case Debrief:

It’s your first day at your new job. You hoped your degree in biochemistry would land you your dream job with the PLTW Forensics Laboratory, and it has. Success! You have always been intrigued by how forensic scientists work to investigate evidence that may be linked to a crime, so you are excited to start your training. However, you never expected to work a case so soon! You’ve just been called to an urgent meeting. Apparently, the police commissioner is calling in to talk to the entire forensics team about a body that has just been found. In this lesson, you will brainstorm and discuss ideas to solve a mystery.


Solving the Murder of Anna Garcia, a fictional girl who was found dead on her college campus. Her death was considered suspicious, so the class was assigned to look into it.

Investigating the Scene
“On the first day of class, students go into a ‘sketchy scene’ as they learn how to investigate the scene of the crime,” Melissa says. When the class is taught in a seated environment, teachers are able to stage a crime scene in their classroom and let students investigate—online, students are able to explore the crime scene virtually by working their way through a 3D-simulated space. Thanks to technology, students can thoroughly examine the entire room and zoom in to investigate questionable evidence.

Collecting Evidence & DNA
Students note their evidence in an evidence log, which can be used in a court of law to help solve crimes. This evidence includes fingerprints, hair and more that are found at the crime scene, and students look at the items under a magnifying glass. “This lesson really dives into details,” Melissa says. “Students learn about the various arches in fingerprints and how they are deciphered. They also use a drag-and-drop simulator to learn how to decode a strand of hair.”

Investigative Interviews & Detecting Deception
During this lesson, students review the skills it takes to perform investigative interviews and learn how to read and decipher polygraph results. They also utilize beating heart simulators to learn how to detect deception.

Blood Typing
“The class also dives deep into blood typing,” Melissa says. In this lesson, students look at blood typing to figure out whose blood was at the scene. “All of the lessons use real-life scenarios and have the students explore life-like data,” Melissa says. “The courses are so well written—it really makes them come alive.”

PLTW Fast Fact: PLTW has more than 80,000 teachers at more than 12,200 schools nationwide.