Justin Fair, a professor
in the Madia Department of Chemistry in the Kopchick College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, had previous experience teaching a graduate course online. Now
that he’s delivering all of his courses remotely, including chemistry labs, his perspective on face-to-face learning hasn’t changed.
Teaching labs online has been the most difficult transformation. I teach the two-semester Organic Chemistry Lab, which is four hours a week. Luckily, one of my students, Randall Koziel (a senior who will be attending graduate school at West Virginia University),
has helped me film all the remaining labs. Since then, we have been adding many of the face-to-face components using D2L and Zoom.
Here is one example of the videos we have made.
I also teach a graduate course that was already online, so that course did not require any modifications.
But the lab was the big one to change. In a face-to-face lab, there are notebook checks, workbook checks, and teamwork points. I found the OneDrive app was a game changer. I had the students create a course folder and share the folder with me. Then they
could scan the notebooks and other assignments and upload them directly from their phone to their OneDrive folder. D2L provided easy tools for their direct linking without having to upload or email large files. Sadly, the lab changed from teams of
two to a more individual task-based course, but this was done so the students have more flexibility to access the lab’s content.
They like the flexibility and the perspective the camera gives them. But, they have said that because they are watching someone else do it and “the slow parts have been taken out,” they don’t have the time to assemble the process nearly as readily
in their minds. All of the students in the lab class are science majors and miss being in the lab and actually doing hands-on work, as they normally would.
There has been some talk in the past about doing online labs. This experience has shown me that online labs are not sufficient for science students, and I expect the difficulties would be even harder for non-science students.
This semester is new to everyone, and we all need to understand the perspectives of all of those involved, especially our students. Attend your faculty members’ online office hours. This is a great chance to show them who is on the other side
of the computer screen. The questions you ask and the comments you make will help shape how the class is delivered—maybe even tailoring it more to your exact needs!