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Options for Teaching Lab Courses Remotely

The move to a remote teaching model in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic means that we will be creating different learning experiences for our students. These differences may be most apparent in courses that are based on experiential learning, such as labs. Below are options that we recommend for revising how teaching occurs in lab courses for remote modalities:

Consider using demonstrations instead of live lab activities. Instructors can record themselves completing a lab and share that with their students. The recordings can be done simply (e.g., using a phone with a video camera). Instructors can supplement these demonstrations with voice narration or writing guidance for their students and can design assignments their students can complete demonstrating that they learned the objectives of the demonstration. You can contact Global Campus to learn more about methods for recording demonstrations.

Videos of labs may be available on social media (e.g., YouTube). Instructors can use these in place of the live experience as well. Quick Google searches on your topic of choice, may help you to find a range of options like this collection of effective biology YouTube channels. When needed, you may be able to adjust or revise your scheduled lab to one available online that covers similar learning objectives.

Open educational resources (OER) may provide materials and resources that can replace the live lab experience. You can explore OER collections such as MERLOT to find lab-related exercises and materials that may be appropriate for your discipline and course content.

Reach out to colleagues for advice. Currently, there is a comprehensive spreadsheet circulating that is broken out by discipline that has contributors from all over the world adding in resources for lab-based courses. There is a group in the Keep Teaching online community focused on labs (once in the community join “group” called “Content: LABS”).

Objectives of the lab course may be modified by instructors as appropriate. Where appropriate, consider shifting the content of your course to focus on other valuable and relevant areas of emphasis, such as science literacy and communication, or lab safety in place of live lab experiences. These videos from the Georgia Tech College of Sciences on lab safety are a great example of what’s available.

While some of these options may not be ideal, we also appreciate that there is a range of creative possibilities for helping students to achieve their lab-based learning outcomes. Our goal is to teach our students in creative ways that still help them to achieve our course learning outcomes.

To be clear, many of these revisions will not make the student experience in lab courses the same as it would have been face-to-face. However, colleges and universities worldwide are working to keep teaching remotely, and we must accept that we are approximating our original course goals and structures during a time of disruption to our typical teaching and learning practices.

Check out this resource from the University of Central Florida for more resources on teaching remote labs.