Orienting students with the lab space and with safety procedures



Students were using a lab space they had never seen before. They were unfamiliar with the normal layout, and they were joined by staff in having to also now learn extra safety procedures and protocols.


A suite of orientation materials was developed, including lab maps, pre-lab self-test materials, and clear instructions from lab leaders on what to do in case of problems.

What was done?

  • Lab capacities were never above 10%, with the staff:student ratio being less than 1:5. A huge amount of preparation went into making the in-person lab run safely and smoothly.
  • We used the course Moodle page to deliver clear, consistent, information and advice to students (and staff) well in advance of the lab, and provided plenty of opportunity to ask questions before hand.
  • A lab safety induction video (particularly focussing on Covid) was recorded and shared, a code of practice was mandatory reading, and a lab safety simulation and quiz helped engage students before the lab, as well as reduce anxiety around the unknown.
  • We also designed lab maps, showing the exact location of each student’s workbench and fume hood, first aid stations, emergency exits, one-ways systems and cleaning stations. We made it a priority to support students and staff in feeling prepared, knowledgable, and safe when entering the lab.

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
  • Encouraged learning in multiple environments, lab, online, interactive
  • Increased practical confidence and proficiency


  • Minimised demonstrating hours, reducing Covid risk
  • Safety of staff and students prioritised
  • 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


  • Increased anxiety about lab safety (particularly initially)