Online Lab Essentials from the Student's Perspective

Concurrent Session 6
Streamed Session Community College

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Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Join us as we embrace the challenges, concerns and motivation of the online lab student and work together to identify technologies and prepare practical solutions for your online science lab courses.


Jennifer L. Lewis is a physical sciences instructor and former online teaching fellow at Madison Area Technical College. She has a decade of experience designing and teaching online lab courses, including geology, historical geology and physical geography.

Extended Abstract

To best address the needs of the online science student, a course developer and instructor needs to first understand the mindset, motivation and concerns of the online student population.  In this Innovation Studio Design Thinking Challenge, participants will work together to identify the essential components of an online science lab.  We will begin with a visualization activity to put us in the mindset of today’s online lab science student.  With our mind’s properly reframed, we will break into groups to analyze different online lab activities from a range of science courses, including geology and physics.  Small groups will brainstorm and map out the potential challenges faced by the online science lab students when completing the different lab activities. Participants will use their experience and perspectives as online students, course developers and instructors to identify useful technologies and develop practical solutions to address the range of challenges and problems faced by online lab students today. Participants will leave the session with specific ideas and step-by-step plans to incorporate in their own online science courses. 


Innovation Studio Design Thinking Challenge Session Plan:

5 minute prompt: Today, you are a new online student taking a science lab course offered fully online.  Science is not your strongest subject.  You’re taking this course because you juggle several work, school and personal commitments and cannot take a traditional face-to-face science lab course.  Take a deep breath and allow yourself to fall into this student’s mindset.  Consider all of your challenges and fears regarding science, labs and the online classroom.  Now that you’re in the student mindset, we can begin today’s Innovation Studio Design Thinking Challenge àOnline Lab Essentials from the Student’s Perspective.

At the table in front of you is a stack of lab assignments.  Each table has a different lab assignment in a difference science field. Take 5 minutes to read through the lab assignment, as that new online science lab student.


Brainstorming: Understanding the Challenge

Part 1:  Using the whiteboards in front of you, map out all potential challenges/issues/concerns faced by the new online science lab student.  Each group will be mapping out the challenges based on their lab assignment.  Groups will spend 10 minutes mapping out the challenges that may develop when students complete their lab assignments.  

Part 2:  The next 5 minutes will be used to have the groups share a quick summary explaining the lab assignment they’re working to understand and the biggest potential challenges the online student may face in the online lab.  The group as a whole will identify the common challenges identified in each group. These common challenges will be written up on new board.


Prototyping: Working Towards Solutions

Part 3:  The groups will go back to their groups to spend 10 minutes working out possible solutions to the challenges their online students may face when completing the online lab assignments.  Additional challenges to those solutions can be noted, as well as suggestions for best options.

Part 4:  In the next 5 minutes, the groups will go around and note the possible solutions for the different challenges on the main group’s boards for each challenge a student may encounter when completing a lab assignment online.  New issues/challenges and success suggestions can be noted.

Part 5:  In the remaining 10 minutes, we will go through each of the challenges listed on the main boards and the suggested solutions to address those challenges.  We will identify the next practical steps for implementing each solution, the best practices/suggestions for each solution and note any new potential issues that a course developer or online instructor may encounter.