Developing and Delivering Online Learning Modules in STEM Lab Education

Concurrent Session 9

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Participation in the Burroughs Welcome Fund Career Guidance for Trainees grant required, in part, that participants create learning modules for students in the STEM fields. In this session, graduate student and post-doctoral fellow grant participants will share their experiences with module development, deployment and results of this effort.


Tess Cherlin is a PhD student at Thomas Jefferson University. She is presenting at OLC with Aurore Lebrun, Bridget Curran, and Rogan Magee.
Mary Gozza-Cohen is an Assistant Director of Curriculum in the Institute of Emerging Health Professions in the College of Health Professions at Thomas Jefferson University with faculty appointments in the Department of Occupational Therapy in the Post Professional Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program and the College of Life Sciences. She has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University at Albany. Her prior experience includes a full-time faculty member in various schools of education, Director of Technology Integration and Online Teaching and Learning, occupational therapy practitioner and various administrative business experiences in the medical industry. Her expertise in teaching, educational psychology, evidence-based practices in all learning environments, and special interest in online teaching and learning is utilized in her current role at TJU. She provides 1:1 assistance and professional development and support on course re/design, pedagogy, formative assessment, technology integration, and collaborates on grant projects, serves on dissertation committees, conducts research, and presents at conferences.

Additional Authors

4th year Genetics, Genomics and Cancer Biology PhD student at Thomas Jefferson University

Extended Abstract

There are many challenges involved in developing high quality learning-material in the STEM fields, particularly for laboratory skills in online and blended learning environments. At Thomas Jefferson University, we have a Post baccalaureate Pre-Professional Program (P4) that is designed for individuals seeking to complete their basic science requirements in preparation for entrance to medical and other health-professional schools.  These students typically have little or no prior science background and often struggle to keep up the pace. 

Our team consists of four graduate students and two postdoctoral fellows in Jefferson’s College of Biomedical Sciences who were brought together as part of a Burroughs Wellcome Fund grant designed to teach us how to develop and teach biomedical science-related courses in online learning environments. As part of this grant, we were charged with designing learning modules for use in online courses.  We chose to create modules that would improve student confidence and skill level in the biomedical science lab.  In our planning, we used the Backward Design method of starting with the ‘end in mind’ – what did we want students to know or be able to do at the end of the module (Wiggins & McTighe, 1998)?  In keeping with effective teaching practices, we incorporated the principles of Universal Design for Learning that involve the use of multiple methods for presenting content, and engaging and assessing students (CAST 2012). Improved student performance and confidence on the related content on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) was a key motivating factor in our design.

We identified a particular course on campus that, as prior teaching assistants for the course ourselves, we felt would benefit from the inclusion of additional student support with lab skill development. We approached the faculty member teaching the course and she was more than agreeable to including additional resources for her students. We understood that students would benefit from real-time formative assessment using technology  that would enable us to use a variety of inputs for student assessment, including open format replies, student questions, pictures or formulas (Enriquez, 2010; Briggs & Keyek-Franssen, 2010; Kohl et al., 2011; Gardner, Kowalski & Kowalski, 2012). Again, in this program and this course in particular, there are often a number of students who struggle with certain science concepts and skills and would greatly benefit from additional learning resources. 

In this session, we will:

  • present our journey from conceptualization to implementation of lab skill-related learning modules in one biomedical science course;
  • share our results of a pre and post assessment of student perceptions of their confidence and skill level for each of the completed learning modules;
  • discuss the trials, tribulations and lessons learned

In this session, we would like to engage the audience:

  • through their participation in one or more of the learning modules to sample the design and content;
  • in a conversation to seek their input about possible modifications to improve the learning modules; and
  • in a conversation to seek their input about how we might extend this concept to a wider audience in other courses or schools across campus.