Natural disasters and other emergencies have disrupted education practices worldwide, including ACS-approved programs offering bachelor’s degrees in chemistry. These events may temporarily change how programs train their students. The ACS Committee on Professional Training (CPT) has developed guidelines addressing student training if an institution is impacted by a natural disaster or other emergency and needs to temporarily pivot to virtual instruction.
The goals of this policy are to ensure that:
- Chemistry majors can continue to receive training that prepares them for a successful career,
- Chemistry majors do not extend their graduation time,
- Programs offering bachelor’s degrees in chemistry have the flexibility to continue their pursuit for sustained academic excellence, and
- Programs return to in person laboratory experiences as soon as emergency conditions have passed.
Participative laboratory skills are an essential skill for chemists because of the manipulative and problem-solving skills that students develop. Furthermore, practical lab experiences help students develop greater awareness of working in a laboratory environment and laboratory safety. Through communication with the broader chemistry community, CPT has compiled a list of the laboratory skills typically covered in the undergraduate curriculum that require physical presence in a laboratory. Programs should develop a plan to develop these skills, typically taught in-person that are typically covered in the undergraduate curriculum. In addition to complying with emergency-related OSHA and CDC requirements, best practices for laboratory safety, as described in the Guidelines for Chemical Laboratory Safety in Academic Institutions, should be employed.
Safety is a core value of the American Chemical Society and as such the health and well-being of students, staff, and faculty members in the community is paramount. The use of virtual labs will be allowed for institutions that must move all instruction online as a result of an emergency and will not affect the approval status of a program. Once face-to-face instruction is possible, or laboratories on campus can be occupied, all laboratory experiences must be performed face-to-face as well.
In general, institutional decisions surrounding the best way to offer laboratory experiences when face-to-face instruction is not possible should comply with all safety regulations and be focused on safe and effective student learning. These types of activities would not affect your approval status unless they were used after face-to-face instruction resumed.
Department chairs can certify students who were on the path to completing the approved curriculum if the emergency impacts coursework due to a move to virtual instruction.
Some institutions may enact a pass/fail grading policy as part of the response to the emergency. Students currently on a path to complete an approved curriculum who graduate with pass/fail grades can still be certified by the department chairperson. The department’s ACS approval will not be affected.
Our concern is for the health and safety of students, staff, and faculty at approved institutions and understand that emergencies increase the stress on faculty, staff, and students. Please let us know if there is anything else that can be done to assist the program and feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.