Wendy Riggs provides insight into her virtual Anatomy and Physiology Labs at College of the Redwoods and discusses how she uses technology to facilitate meaningful learning opportunities for her students.
- Review of the important outcomes of laboratory experiences
- Common barriers to hands-on laboratory experiences and online science courses
- Pros and cons of common online laboratory solutions
Wendy begins the webinar highlighting the importance of laboratory-based courses, as they encourage students to do science; according to the National Science Foundation “appreciating the scientific process can be even more important than knowing scientific facts”. She also points out that labs allow students the opportunity to work together and so they can discover ideas, both together and individually.
“. . . this is different from applying content that they’ve learned somewhere else . . . [not just] read the text and now we’re going to apply it . . . this is discovering ideas . . . this is an inquiry-based approach that is harder for us to do.”
In addition, labs allow students to apply course concepts using hands-on experiences and these activities should be both fun and engaging. However, the important question remains whether these objectives can be achieved online.
Due to COVID-19, there has been a pivot to remote teaching, and the 2020 Changing Landscape of Online Education (CHLOE) 5 and 2021 CHLOE 6 Reports have revealed how institutions and teachers are shifting focus to tech enhancements for the classroom. Wendy then discusses barriers that need to be overcome for online classes, including: students becoming bored, canned content, harder to help students, lack of equipment, and technology issues.
“. . . for us AND the students, doing this work online is just . . . a tremendous amount of work.”
Wendy continues the webinar discussingproaches to overcome these obstacles. Virtual simulations hosted on web platforms, lab activities via worksheets, and wetlabs that involve student preparation or science kits are a few solutions that have been widely implemented. LT sensors from ADInstruments are introduced as a hands-on and interactive solution; these sensors measure human physiological data and allow students to collect and analyze the data themselves.
“I look forward to investing . . . you can’t make changes unless you invest time and energy into teaching the students about the thing you want them to be able to do.”
The pros and cons of the LT sensors are presented. Although it is another online platform, this technology allows students to collaborate in real time; for example, one student can be connected to the LT sensor at home but the rest of the class can observe and work simultaneously with the data.
Wendy concludes the webinar with some advice for other educators: evaluate why you are asking them to do the work, think carefully about the variety of content, and consider the quantity of content. Finally, she recommends investing in the creation of a sense of community in class.
- How do people include scientific methods in their anatomy labs?
- How do you address the situation where although classes are currently online, they plan to return to in-person in the near future, and thus institutions are hesitant to release funds to make the online labs more interactive?
- How do you build community online when many students will not even turn on their cameras?
- Do many post-Bachelor health professional schools (ie. Medicine, Veterinary, Dental) accept online labs for their admission eligibility course requirements?
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Associate Professor of Biology
College of the Redwoods