Faculty: Best Practices for Labs & Studios

Hands-on learning experiences such as laboratory and studio courses are difficult to replicate in a virtual setting. Instructors may need to consider alternatives, perhaps drawing on experience accommodating students who missed class due to illness or other major conflicts.

If you are unable to teach in a lab as initially planned, consider the following options:

  • Ask students to engage with a seminal scientific article that describes the experimental approach they would have performed in the lab. You might ask students to identify its advantages or limitations, or consider new applications related to course content.

  • Explore existing virtual laboratory resources and videos, such as those from the Journal of Virtual Experiments, PhET, LabXChange or iBiology, which may communicate content similar to what you had planned for students to experience in lab.

  • Ask students to write out the process of the lab, as if they were performing each protocol step. For example, students could describe first one obtains X equipment, then measures Y substance, combines Y with Z, expects A to occur, etc. This approach gives students the opportunity to think through an experiment without physically performing the work.

  • Provide sample experimental data that would have been generated during the lab for your students to analyze. You might then ask your students to develop a lab report or paper based on these results similar to if they had obtained the experimental data themselves. Data sources might include experimental data from previous semesters or earlier in the term, if applicable.

  • Give students opportunities to develop communication skills required of successful scientists. For example, students could write a draft manuscript or grant proposal based on lab content. You might also ask students to create a scientific poster alone or collaboratively in groups through tools like Google Slides.

Additional Lab Resources:

If you are unable to teach in a studio as initially planned, consider the following options:

  • Explore existing video and virtual resources that address your studio topic. For instance, peruse and vet videos from Ted Talks, YouTube, or other video databases to demonstrate a technique or software application or to provide content for reflection and analysis.

  • Consider discipline-specific resources from academic and non-academic perspectives such as Yale’s image databases (visual resources), ArtStor (visual art resources), ThingStor (material culture), Section Cut (architecture), and Edit Media (media production courses).

  • Ask students to share their work digitally for “desk crits”: If you only need to see it to offer a critique, then you could ask them to upload it as an assignment, or you could meet with students via Zoom or phone and have them present the work in the meeting.

  • Ask students to share their work digitally for peer feedback. Given the potential size of students’ work files, you can utilize different tools: “Graded Discussion” threads allow students to upload their work and peers to provide feedback. VoiceThread allows students to upload their work, add video/audio/text explanations, and share feedback on peers’ work.

  • If students recently had a mid-semester or other critique, ask students to formulate a plan for how they will incorporate critics’ and peers’ feedback.

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