Perceptions of a program approach to virtual laboratory provision for analytical and bioanalytical sciences
Keywords:virtual laboratory, dry lab, laboratory instruction, postgraduate education, active learning
When teaching chemistry and biosciences courses to undergraduate and postgraduate students, laboratory experience is a crucial requirement for skills development. Due to COVID-19 related closure of laboratories it became critical to replace that experience with virtual delivery. Through carefully designed learning experiences it is possible for students to gain skills such as experimental design, problem solving, record keeping and data analysis.
Here we present a coordinated approach to the design of laboratory classes for a cross discipline postgraduate program. Virtual laboratory classes, using freely available web-based simulators, were run in a synchronous manner with pre lab briefing and post lab data analysis sessions. The laboratory scripts were developed using a command prompt design: [Do][Explore][Act] framework, which is intended to provide students with a guided approach to using the simulator while in a remote setting. The intended outcome was to develop student’s record keeping and understanding of the scientific principles of the instrumentation through practical experimentation.
Student experience of the virtual laboratory provision was surveyed via a mix method approach, with an 81% response rate. Satisfaction with the virtual labs was high (68%), with students agreeing the laboratories contained the appropriate balance of challenge and support. The command prompts were thought to be a very useful way to structure a lab script (77% agreement) and many suggested this approach should be kept for future laboratory use. Students self-identified the main skills learnt as being laboratory bookkeeping, analyzing data, problem solving and use of equipment.
Copyright (c) 2021 Tom Bassindale, Robert J. LeSuer, David P. Smith
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