You may be faced with the challenge of teaching face-to-face, virtually or a hybrid. Explore the pros and cons identified by the breakout groups and review tactics to help you regardless of where you'll be teaching.
There was a clear consensus among the participants in the hands-on lab skills breakout groups that there is no substitute for doing hands-on labs. Aside from the obvious benefits of being able to physically handle instruments in the lab, there are several other advantages to hands-on learning. This list reflects the discussions that occurred at this meeting and is not a comprehensive list of hands-on lab skills.
Hands-on lab skills:
Developing safety skills
Concerns about hands-on labs:
Concern that administrators will push for the elimination of expensive hands-on chemistry labs post COVID
Terminology can be confusing: Distinguish between virtual and hands-on rather than in-person (online/distance does not mean the same as virtual)
Group work: Difficult to collaborate from 6 feet away. But how can faculty help/assist without getting close?
Harder for TAs to interact in the laboratory setting
Concerned about the level of interaction
Hands-on skills compiled by CPT
The list of skills below was compiled by the ACS Committee on Professional Training (CPT) to help programs develop lab activities during COVID-19, it is currently not part of the ACS Guidelines for Approved Institutions. Learn more about CPT's response to COVID-19 on the committee website, where you can find the full document on lab skills (PDF).
Analysis & Measurement
Working with glassware and balances
Working with real samples
Solution handling skills: making solutions, dilutions, pipetting
Making calibration curves
Interfacing with instrumentation: software, hardware, awareness of the physical space and parts of instrumentation
Reporter assays for biochemical systems / in vivo or in vitro
Analysis of enzymatic properties, kinetic behavior, or protein structure-function
Synthesis, Characterization, and Preparation
Synthesis and preparation of different classes of molecules
Sample preparation for measurement on instrumentation
Glassware / reactionware selection
Safe handling of chemicals and appropriate disposal of waste
Standard protein and nucleic acid characterization methods (size, purity, identity)
Virtual or Online Labs
Teaching in a virtual or online lab setting offers a number of advantages while also raising a number of logistical, technological, and organizational questions. Breakout sessions identified the following benefits and concerns with virtual or online labs.
Can improve the time/cost ratio (some virtual experiments can have a big advantage)
Can show things that are more “black box”
Allows students to make observations without distractions or pressure
Allows students to take their time and repeat things
Allows students to “perform” experiments that might be too dangerous or cost prohibitive to do in the lab
Students getting sick and missing out
Having to shift entirely online yet again and having a heterogeneous population.
Some of our population cannot get back to campus at all, so we will have an inherent inequity
Learning outcomes may need to be revised
For example, into Technical and Critical Thinking learning outcomes.
Twine - a choose your own adventure - goal to focus on theory.
Group work may be difficult to implement
What types of skills might be taught as well or better in a virtual or online environment?
Identified by the breakout sessions:
Fundamental skills that help students learn concepts and can be used for future labs
Giving students data sets to work with that had been previously gathered by other students - analysis, calculations
Instrumental techniques (leverage software to control instruments)
NMR, IR, MS theory and data interpretation
Computational (e.g. crystal structure)-asynchronous, with synchronous discussion/follow-up
Disclaimer: This event was designed to explore key questions regarding laboratory experiences and curricula. The opinions or views expressed in these discussions do not necessarily reflect the current statements and guidelines of the American Chemical Society, the views or opinions of ACS’s management or its members, or plans for renewed or revised policies. Chemistry departments seeking ACS Approval must continue to follow the ACS Guidelines for Bachelor’s Degree Programs as stipulated by the Committee on Professional Training, including those for laboratory instruction once their campuses resume face-to-face instruction without social distancing.