Labs provide an opportunity to experiment, observe, or practice in a field of study. Labs are often integrated as components of larger lecture courses, so it is worth defining what the labs are meant to achieve in a remote teaching environment.  

Experiential learning is hard to manage when students are not in the room. However, depending on the students’ age level,  a teacher can provide a video of a hands-on exploration of various topics and encourage students to ask questions, investigate, and use data sets to make sense of what they’re seeing.

Without access to classroom equipment and supplies, and in-person guidance of teachers, how would students get safe and authentic experience of performing experiments?

Whether Teaching remotely or in person, the most important steps are to determine learning objectives and their outcomes. These are

  • Understanding scientific concepts
  • Determining interest and motivation
  • Acquiring scientific practical skills and problem-solving abilities
  • Forming scientific habits of mind
  • Understanding the nature of science

Here are some ways science teachers can bring science labs to life for students learning remotely.

  1. Help students become the architects of their own learning

Converting face-to-face teaching to remote methods does not mean changing the learning outcomes to fit the activities. Teachers still need to develop the content and sequence, making connections between core concepts and observable phenomena. However, students have more control of time management and task completion. Learning at their own pace improves engagement and give time to students to explore their curiosity.

  1. Adapt to at-home materials available for virtual labs

When adapting labs to online or remote learning, think outside of the box in terms of how course learning outcomes can be met. Certain lab techniques cannot be readily conducted at home, so making use of the scientific articles to highlight and review with students can be substituted. The key here is to focus on applications that are easy for students to relate to.. Teachers may have to adjust the time allotted for these assignments to ensure they are effective in this new modality.

  1. Have students discuss lab activities with their peers

Discussion among students is important and needs to be facilitated during synchronous classes. Students being involved will help them connect their own ideas and ask questions of others. It also allows proper assessment of students’ learning. Discussion allows interpersonal exchanges that often lead to deeper meaning and understanding. Breakout sessions are supported by software, such as Zoom.

Assigning small, low-stakes assignments online will help students have an easier transition to complex remote learning. In addition, incorporating pre-lab quizzes and videos can improve their preparedness. Teacher can further help students by utilizing images taken in your lab or from reference websites.

To support peer-level feedback online, ask students to record videos to show their learning, and classmates can comment on them or make response videos or platforms that allow students to reflect on each other’s uploaded work.

  1. Creating live or recorded experiments

Recording demos at classroom desk using camera and a lab worksheet and then sharing it online with students in advance can help students record data provided by the teacher. Once the class has collected data, teacher can send students back into breakout rooms to analyze it and answer final questions. Feedback from students asking, “What aspects of the lab did you enjoy the most and least?” can help teacher improve the task.

No matter what method teachers use, they must provide learning that remains effective, robust, and accessible.