Pruning to core ILOs, and preparing students for the physical space
The Organic-3 lab course usually consists of 5 in-person experiments for each student, all of which have been supported by online pre- and post-lab resources (developed in partnership with Learning Science) for some years.
Could these experiments be condensed to core learning outcomes and techniques that couldn’t be replicated outside the lab? Could the essentials identified by incorporated into one experiment that all students could perform in-person, with continuing complementary online learning in parallel?
Criteria were established to 'prune' labs based on the most important ILOs and the most critical abilities required of a chemistry graduate. A fundamental lab re-write was required, but the investment made in developing a new lab was undoubtedly worth the effort.
What was done?
- With a focus on transferable chemistry techniques, what a chemist will do everyday, and what employers would expect a graduate to be able to perform practically, the five face-to-face experiments for the Organic-3 lab were distilled down into one, reliable in-person lab-learning experience, packed full of the kinds of techniques that are essential knowledge for a chemist.
- All students performed this one face-to-face lab, supported by four further fully online labs, and preparatory videos, simulations, and guides (also developed in collaboration with Learning Science).
Evaluation and student feedback
- The Organic-3 Lab 2020-2021 was extremely calm and students really hit the ground running. They were clearly very engaged and aware of both the importance of the face-to-face experience, and of their role in ensuring it ran smoothly and safely.
- Students reported that they found the preparatory safety information/interactive simulation/quiz/lab maps really useful and that these resources helped to reduce their anxiety before the lab. Students also expressed their gratitude at having the opportunity to have in-person lab experience and clearly showed a real dedication to making the most out of the learning experience.
- We also benefitted from having a well-established online support resource library, which allowed us to move online any learning that was not essential to the in-lab experience, focussing only on core practical techniques when face-to-face.
- One possible drawback to the calm, quiet lab was that, due to social distancing, students couldn’t really have informal chats with their peers, or with staff, which can be really beneficial and help build a sense of community. In addition, the strict one-way system we developed for the lab turned out to be a bit clunky and wasn’t really user-friendly. Next time we need to think out the routes a bit better!
- Allowed for face-to-face experience
- Developed knowledge of core techniques
- Gave students a link to School of Chemistry, UoG when little chance otherwise in 2020/2021
- Increased practical confidence and proficiency
- Minimised demonstrating hours, reducing Covid risk
- In-depth staff training developed
- No staff marking time involved in online, immediate feedback, auto-graded reports
- Process developed will be taken forward
- Social distancing reduced contact with peers and staff in-lab, reducing knowledge exchange opportunities
- Actually getting around Glasgow and UoG to attend the lab in-person proved challenging to some
- Several students could not attend, having to self-isolate (each student kept in good communication)
- Often the only reason staff needed to be on-campus
- Potential staff shortages (due to self-isolation), although this didn’t occur