BIOL 12: Moving Labs Online

When the lab coordinators for BIOL 12 Cell Structure and Function learned that classes were moving online for spring term, they remained calm. They were accustomed to working on the fly and in the past had developed new labs in a week. "We've done it before and we'll do it again," says primary lab coordinator Amanda Socha, GRAD '16.

They did have a challenge though. The labs done in class require expensive equipment so they had to scrap the idea of using their "super fancy expensive" microscopes and think of a new way to present the material. Socha says they took inspiration from videos of labs that they had seen on JoVE, a peer-reviewed video methods journal, and decided to make their own videos.

Socha worked with her colleagues Nicholas Sylvain and Jessica DeSimone Warren, Geisel '19. They used a cellphone camera to film lab protocols. Then Socha edits the videos using the free editing software iMovie, adding her own narrations. They've also utilized the TA by having him critique the video through the mindset of a learner.

The lab coordinators try to make each video no more than ten minutes long. They also use TechSmith Relay to splice in quizzes at various points in the video for student engagement. They use TechSmith Relay's auto caption function, then edit the captions afterwards. These captions help students who are low- or hard of hearing or those with audiotory processing disorders. "It's really important to be accessible," says Socha.

Once the students view the videos, they are provided the data for analysis and interpretation. BIOL 12 "is a pretty challenging class," Socha says. Despite being online, the class will not be easier. They will still have the same amount of work. Students will still have to make figures and tables and "think beyond." She hopes that by students focusing on analysis and interpretation that it will help them reinforce these scientific ideas. The class will be less time consuming though because the four hour labs have been condensed into ten minute videos.

In in-person class, students typically do the lab from reading through a manual, but for students like Socha, who are visual learners, these video guides might be more helpful to walk them through the complicated steps. After this process, Socha says that this might be something they want to bring into in-person classes in the future.

For guides on how to get started with remote teaching, best practices, and tech training, visit our Teach Remote site.