One of the most challenging aspects of shifting to remote teaching has been the approach to moving practicals online. In a recent seminar, two academics shared their successful experiences in their subjects.
Doing DNA recovery at home
Georgina Meakin shared her experience of converting a laboratory-based DNA recovery class to an interactive Zoom class using everyday items from around the home. Georgina’s subject is Biological Criminalistics, with approximately 37 students. The subject is about the process of recovery, analysis and interpretation of biological evidence from the crime scene to court, and is usually delivered in a two-hour lecture and a three-hour practical each week. Through a process of trial and error, Georgina successfully moved her lab work online. She found her initial strategy of using photos and making videos of processes for practicals to be a bit arms-length and lacking in the practical, hands-on experience that students usually received. Georgina rethought this and came up with the idea of using everyday objects found around the home to devise a swabbing process that students could do, providing them with the hands-on experience that had been missing. She gave live online demonstrations of herself doing these tasks, within the context of various case studies discussed during an interactive Zoom session, where she asked students to identify and answer questions about the swabbing method to be used.
Making lab work practicals virtual
Morgan Philp has a large cohort of 860 first year students in Chemistry 1, and described her experience in transitioning the practicals from a large subject to online delivery. Usually the course was presented each week in a 1.5 hour lecture and a 3 hour practical session in the lab. Normally 32 students were in the lab, with classes beginning with a quiz, followed by a demonstration. The remainder of the class would involve experimental work, answering some post lab questions and self-assessing their lab performance. Morgan performed and filmed all the experiments that were usually done in the lab by students, and included videos in the practical presentations for demonstrators to provide commentary on. Morgan grouped the large cohort into smaller online classes using MS Teams, and all tests and quizzes were also moved online. (Academic integrity was addressed by asking students to take a photo, using the Office Lens app, of their working-out and uploading to their Notebook). Class notebooks were set-up in OneNote and linked to the appropriate Team to replace the physical lab manual.
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Feature image by nci on Unsplash.