Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Biology eAcademy: Introduction to Virtual Labs

Figure 3
Figure 3 (Photo credit: Libertas Academica)
Bob Deshamais and Paul Narguizian

Paul is from Cal State LA. He was hired as "Biology Educator" - he focuses on education. They are focusing on GE Biology - they have a plant and animal bio. They have also converted to the semester system. They are planning on combing plant and animal into a single course. The course is an experiment. They will have data by the end of the year.

GE Biology is faciltiy and labor intensive with a steady drop in their student success rates.

They are replacing wet labs with online simulations. Thoughtfully implement online labs:

  • Engaging students in scientific methodology
  • Reducing demand for lab facilities
  • Decreasing costs 
  • Addressing both facility and pedagogical bottlenecks
Project Plan
  • Redesign GE Biology courses - conversion to semesters
  • Two new modes of lab instruction vs. trad
  •  All labs offered online
  • Two tracks online and wet labs alternating every week
  • Both modes = :-) to :-) (Lecture and drop-in times) 
  • Labs are staffed with advanced students
  • Engaging inquiry based exercises vs. traditional "cook book" labs
  • Grading rubric for each online lab
Project Activities
BIOL 144" Animal Biology (future blend with plant)
Retain large lecture

  • Fall 2013 (two large lecture sections and 16 all onlkne lab sections with 24 students in each lag with 6 GAs @ 10 hrs a week)
  • Winter 2014 - One lecture secion and 8 traditional "wet" labs = 24 students /lab with instructor
  • Spring 2014 - Two large lecture sections and 16 hybrid lab sections = 24 students /lab simulation results are idealized; lack of reality
  • Five of the weekly labs offered online - others wet labs
  • Eight of the 16 sections will start with wet labs and then alternate
  • Three GAs will be hired at 10 hrs a week
Lab Handouts
  • Distributed via Moodle
  • Background information
  • Detailed assignment instructions
  • Assignment requires experiment and interpretation the results in a quiz
  • Students create a report and turn it in to Moodle
  • Reports are graded via a detailed rubric
Project Resources
They are using an online website both "Biology Labs On-Line" and "SmartScience Labs."

Projects Assessment
Ji Son, PhD is the project evaluator
Implementing survey tools
Several questions are being addressed including student satisfaction and performance.
  • Which delivery mode to students prefer?
  • Which model provides the best understanding of science?
  • What problems to students encounter most?
  • What could be improved?
  • Do online labs lead to better grades?

There was a discussion about training GAs (graduate assistants).

Potential for Reducing Bottlenecks

  • GE requirement 
  • Courses are limited by space and personnel costs
  • Each lab section has 20-25 students and requires an instructor
  • Offering labs for evening students is an additional challenge
  • Online labs allow increase in enrollments
  • Less need for lab facilities
  • Less personnel needed
  • Costs of personnel and facilites can be lowered by 44% by using virtual labs
Pedagogical Bottlenecks
  • These courses are challenges for non-majors who often view science as a static body of facts
  • Cookbook labs with no engagement
  • Online labs allow students to design their own experiments
  • Students enjoy the online labs
  • Results in better student engagement
Scalability and Sustainability
All projects available via STEM Labs and MERLOT

We participated in a demonstration of "Biology Labs Online" http://BiologyLabsOnLine.com

We have used this model before with Health Information Management - we used online simulations to provide students with more opportunities to practice procedures. 

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