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vjcunr
New Contributor

What are other institutions doing about undergraduate laboratory offerings?

We were told to move everything online about 2/3 of the way through the semester.  Our faculty pulled together and were able to develop online offerings for the remainder of the semester.  There have certainly been some hiccups along the way, particularly with respect to assignments, grading, cheating, and moving our labs online.  For our lab classes we took a number of approaches including dry labs, video demonstrations, and extended out of the lab exercises.  These activities were designed to fill the gap until the end of the semester and were never intended to replace in-person learning.  It was just announced that summer school will be online, and I am struggling to find complete general chemistry and "pre-nursing" organic laboratory replacements.  I've expressed to the administration that chemistry labs are skill building exercises, but there is considerable pressure to continue labs online.  I am curious what other institutions are doing.

I appreciate any information you can offer.

Vince Catalano

University of Nevada, Reno

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10 Replies
JodiWesemann
Contributor

Re: What are other institutions doing about undergraduate laboratory offerings?

This, along with many other topics, are being discussed on the private Facebook group Strategies for teaching chemistry online.  As a chemistry educator, you just need to ask to join.  

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JodiWesemann
Contributor

Re: What are other institutions doing about undergraduate laboratory offerings?

Organic Education Resources (OrganicERs), an independent group focused on the dissemination of evidence-based materials for active learning pedagogies in organic chemistry, also have a private Facebook group for instructors where labs are among the topics: OrganicERs:  Active Learning in Organic Chemistry 

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JodiWesemann
Contributor

Re: What are other institutions doing about undergraduate laboratory offerings?

Another community, the Interactive Online Network of Inorganic Chemists (IONiC), shares teaching resources and offers real-time support via its Virtual Inorganic Pedagogical Electronic Resource (VIPEr).

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henryahoff
New Contributor

Re: What are other institutions doing about undergraduate laboratory offerings?

We offer some online laboratories on Wikiversity. See Radiation astronomy/Courses at url=Radiation astronomy/Courses - Wikiversity . For example, there's a list of some laboratories in the template at the page bottom titled "Radiation astronomy resources". Or, at url=Template:Radiation astronomy resources - Wikiversity .

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scooke
Contributor III

Re: What are other institutions doing about undergraduate laboratory offerings?

Dear Vincent,

I agree that there is no real substitute for an in-lab guided course.  Given the circumstances - necessary or not - we need to do the best we can with "teaching" lab principles with student safety and learning in mind.  The institution that I work for has had online general chemistry courses for quite a few years.  None may be as good as we'd really like, but at least the provider we use is relatively consistent and covers the major topics fairly well.  We use the lab kits and Manuals available from eScience.com.  Submission and grading remain within the University system.

eScience Labs | 

Best regards,

Steven

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lynnhartshorn
New Contributor III

Re: What are other institutions doing about undergraduate laboratory offerings?

On-line labs may be a reasonable TEMPORARY alternative  in the current situation of a pandemic; and there are some good ones available.  However some institutions are encouraging them for reasons that have nothing to do with learning. Simply--they cost less!  You don't need expensive equipment and supplies. Eventually you don't even need the lab buildings! Unfortunately there is no substitute for students learning to handle real  chemicals and equipment safely, in a real lab,  and building skills that they may need later in their jobs.  Would you hire a chemistry major that had never  worked in an actual lab? I think once the pandemic is over. chemistry faculty need to  make these points strongly with administrations that would prefer labs to be online. 

TheFlIrishman
New Contributor II

Re: What are other institutions doing about undergraduate laboratory offerings?

I teach Orgo 2 lab which is all synthesis.I go into the lab, run the lab and record it with a go pro hero 7 camera.  Then edit it with AVS Video Editor to put small parts into about 15 min segments.  Then put it up on U-Tube and show it on Canvas during the normal lab period.  Here is an example:

Thin Layer Chromatography 5 24 2020 - YouTube 

George Kenney

Eastern Florida State College

Melbourne, Fl

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ChrisBasel
New Contributor

Re: What are other institutions doing about undergraduate laboratory offerings?

Greetings,

I have an additional related topic to add:  What about liability?  I have used Hands On Labs and they have liability coverage.  However, I would like to start online/at home labs using materials the students purchase themselves.   This would only be for non-majors labs.  My university is not sure about coverage.  This would enable more students to take labs, but sounds risky.  Even the best-designed lab with great instructions and safety precautions can go wrong for some students...

Anyone have any thoughts?

Thanks!! 

scooke
Contributor III

Re: What are other institutions doing about undergraduate laboratory offerings?

Dear Christopher,

Unfortunately, even with "contracts" the ease of litigation means that even perceived slights may incur legal actions.  Well-designed kits with minimal amounts of materials and the use of non-hazardous materials as much as possible reduce the intrinsic risk quite a bit.  BUT, even if you simply tell someone to go purchase bleach (as opposed to them getting it on their own), does that imply some liability if they misuse it, despite your clear instructions?  Only the trial lawyers figure that out - neither scientifically nor often correctly. 

The point is that A) you should ask any loss claims lawyer what your potential liability would be, and B) check into what liability insurance for damage claims will really cost.  I had to get my own coverage for work as a consultant.  It's not really cheap, but the amount really depends on how serious of a claim or amount of damages could be reasonably expected.

Finally, if there is no way to avoid any possibility of any potential liability, just see (from a business case) what the added cost of liability insurance will add to your unit (student) cost.  I'm sure that it would be an acceptable (and necessary) incremental raise to the current fee for taking a course. I'm not sure how different liability is for remote students (I would think that they must assume more risk) than for holding the classes in your facility.  If you move a substantial proportion "off campus" that should allow a reduction in liability insurance on-campus.   OR, the current policy for hazards and liability could be extended to cover the off-site work.

Best regards,

Steven