Authentic Laboratory Experiences for All Students, Including Those with Special Needs, in College Level Non-Major’s On-line Biology – “Moving Mountains in Digital, Blended and Online Learning”

Workshop Session 1

Brief Abstract

Higher education institutions have questioned on-line teaching of laboratory based science courses as meeting the objectives of degree requirements. Of special interest is how these classes can be made available to special needs learners. This workshop will discuss concerns, solutions, and engage participants in an authentic on-line laboratory exercise.


Dr. Mason teaches a variety of biology and environmental sciences classes on the Menifee Valley Campus of Mt. San Jacinto College. Dr. Mason has been teaching at a college or university level since the beginning of time (well maybe not quite that long, although his children tell him he is as old as dirt). Dr. Mason completed his B.A. degree at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. Dr. Mason is a population and community biologist with a special interest in animal behavior and population genetics. He is currently doing research on the winter avian community of Yellowstone National Park. He has received National Science Foundation, ATEEP Fellowships to study urban and agricultural pollution as it affects water resources and most recently to study fossil fuel production and distribution in Alaska. Dr. Mason also serves as President of the San Jacinto River Basin Resource Conservation District.

Extended Abstract

Primary Audience: Instructors, academic counselors, administrators, IT personnel interested in providing “authentic (non-virtual) on-line instruction in science laboratory based course presentation.

Session Outcomes: Participants will discuss issues and concerns of offering authentic laboratory experiences which meet institutional standards for college level transfer courses in science classes; AND, participants will experience, from a student’s perspective, firsthand a sample of how the laboratory materials are presented and completed in an on-line format.

Session Take-Aways: Participants will actually experience authentic laboratory instruction in the on-line format and take away information and materials that can be used to provide this type of instruction at their institutions.

Workshop 90 minute Session

DISCUSSION: How do we actively engage ALL learners, including those with special needs, in successfully completing institutional District Learning Objectives (DLOs) and Course Learning Objectives (CLOs) in a fully-on-line learning Environment?

Measurable Learning Outcomes (LOs): Explicit Participant Learning Outcomes

1. Participants will explore specific issues related to presenting authentic (hands-on as opposed to virtual) laboratory experiences to on-line students registered in a college transfer level, laboratory based, biology class. Measured by completion of specific laboratory related exercises.

2. Participants will investigate ADA (WCAG 2.0) compliance for lecture and laboratory presentations in the online format of a college transfer level, laboratory based biology class. Measured by participant identification of barriers to specific needs students.

3.  Participants will actively take part in performing authentic laboratory exercised in an on-line laboratory based biology class. Measured by completion of laboratory post-lab questions.

4. Participants will explore techniques to removing barriers to online learning for special needs populations. Measured by identification of specific techniques to enable learners with special needs.


10 Minutes - Introductory Presentation: History at Mt. San Jacinto College

Approximately 16 years ago, the concept of teaching online science courses to non-science majors was discussed with the biological science faculty at Mt. San Jacinto College, a publically funded two year college in the California Community College system.

      Critical Issues:

               Faculty Attitudes - “Over my dead body!” You cannot teach a biology lab on-line.

               Course Rigor (course credit transferability - labs required) Can student lecture and laboratory learning outcomes be achieved?

               Presentation Format - Is the on-line laboratory experience on par with the on-campus experience?

10 Minutes - Participant (Interactivity) Collaboration: Questions on Issues and Concerns at Institutions Represented by Participants

Discussion among participants and presenter to identify issues and concerns about on-line laboratories which they have or which they think may be crucial to the implementation of this 

10 Minutes – Demonstration of Research Methods and Statistical Analysis Comparing On-line and On-campus student success in meeting Laboratory Course Learning Objectives (CLO).

      Process: Today’s Fully Online Course Looks Like…

      Eight week classes (two start periods: first half semester, second half semester) - includes 6-8
      sections offered each term with additional two in summer semester

      Lecture materials presented with PowerPoint, video, and instructor-developed materials

      Course outline is: twelve examinations, six group discussions, and four scientific article
      reading evaluations

      Laboratory: eighteen laboratory experiences, sixteen require eScience laboratory kit,
      two virtual experiences require no supplies

Discuss: Research Methodology

      Student performance information gathered, Student Outcome

      No statistically significant differences (.05) between an online or
     on-campus science course when it comes to the completion of Student Learning Objectives*

     Data Gathering Continues:

        Qualitative are very positive

        Quantitative still being analyzed

45 Minutes - Innovation: Apply and Practice Concept, Authentic Laboratory Experience Jigsaw Teams

       Divide participants into 4 member “lab partner groups”.

       Work through different “jigsaw” pieces of an actual lab experiment.


15 Minutes - Team Reflection:

Teams present findings and reflect on practical application in their own instructional context.