With the sudden move to remote instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many courses have encountered a roadblock using traditional hands-on methods in the lab leaving instructors and students in quite a dilemma.
Labs are a vital component to learning, but with a statewide shutdown of our university system, how can we flexibly work with concepts and procedures that require hands-on activities on campus? Whether you are conducting experiments, evaluating results, or comparing data, access to the labs on campus is vital to learning.
As we navigate these uncharted waters, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there a video the student can watch?
- Can you move the lab course to the fall semester and move another one up to the summer that would translate better to remote instruction?
- Can the student read a case study or lab report and do a write-up on it?
- Or even more timely, can the student perform work on a COVID-19 analysis?
The approach to online labs will be different for each course, instructor, and college, but the fact is it is here, and we need to look at how to manage and apply it to work for us, not against us. Even when things go back to normal, we need to think long-term in how these labs can become a permanent tool in our toolbox.
We at the Division of Digital Learning (DDL) understand the inherent challenges faculty and staff are experiencing as we move all spring and summer courses online. In an effort to help mitigate these problems and enhance the student experience, we have developed a task force charged with working alongside faculty members in various colleges to ensure efficient and practical instruction is delivered, which includes access to virtual and remote labs.
The resources compiled are a comprehensive inventory of tools and platforms available for educators. Not all are associated with UCF and some have a fee to the instructor and/or student that is not covered by the university.
For a clearer understanding of the categories and resources available, virtual and remote labs are defined as follows:
- Virtual Labs: In these labs, real experiments are virtualized or simulated and students can access them online.
- Remote Labs: These types of labs enable faculty and students to access equipment and/or computers via the internet to perform experiments and laboratory tasks without being in the physical lab space.
Articles Relating to Virtual and Remote Labs
A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education reviews how to safely and quickly move your lab instruction online through the following areas:
- Instructor created labs
- Lab kits
- Virtual labs and simulations
We’re all in this together! This article from UC Berkeley offers a glimpse into how other universities are handling our new situation.
Inside Higher Ed offers some advice on how to rethink science lab classes by identifying five objectives for online labs and how students can learn about scientific research without physically being in the lab. Campus Technology provides insight on how the University System of Maryland has partnered with Labster to provide virtual laboratory simulations across their institutions.