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2020 Fall Teaching Resources from the Remote 2.0 Committee: Resources for teaching lab science online

Curated resources for faculty reviewed by members of the Remote 2.0 subcommittee.

Teaching Scientific Labs Both Online and In Person

Teaching labs will involve many of the challenges that all classes will experience. As a good place to start, please consult Best Practices for All Fall Courses, High-Touch Practices for Teaching, and Equity for Remote Students. As with all classes this fall, scientific lab courses should "design for online" given that some students will likely be remote at some point during the semester. Start with your learning objectives and build from there with fresh eyes. Resist doing what you have always done just because you have always done it.

In-person labs will also have their own challenges due to smaller spaces and the potential reliance on expensive shared equipment and group transportation.

There is no single solution and each faculty member will need to design their lab experience to best meet the learning objectives of the course given the situation.

Suggestions

  • Talk to your peers. This includes colleagues at W&J as well as across your discipline. Laboratory faculty and professionals across the globe are dealing with the same issues and many have come up with potential solutions. 
  • Check your professional association for resources that may help. See the American Chemical Society link for an example.
  • Consider Remote Labs. Many faculty are choosing to use completely remote lab experiences. The crowdsourced document in the Resources section has many examples across disciplines.
  • Modify your in-person lab. Some faculty can do a version of their in-person labs as they have done before. This is more practical if all students are in-person, class size is rather small, and the lab space is sufficiently large. However, instructors should plan adapt their expectations given the likelihood that some students may need to work remotely during the semester. 
  • Consider JayFlex. If possible, you might consider designing activities that can be done on-campus or at home using simple tools. 
  • Focus on other aspects of the scientific process. Collecting data is just one part. Consider adding assignments that help students research scientific literature, find funding sources, write proposals, facilitate discussion in a journal club, analyze existing data, visualize data, write abstracts for conferences, give presentations, create outreach materials for a general audience.
  • Explore existing publicly available "big data" in your field and ways to analyze it e.g., bioinformatics/genomics databases, GIS data, National Environmental Observatory Network.
  • Connect course content to careers. Have students explore careers that use the skills taught in lab. Consider incorporating interview via videoconferencing of alumni or colleagues in that field.