Lab courses modified for pandemic


All of our classes have been affected by coronavirus one way or another. Many have gone online, which is fine because a lot of them just consist of lecture and discussion.

But then you have the issue of science labs. The purpose of labs is to provide students with necessary hands-on experience.

But that has proven to be tricky during the pandemic. However, professors have managed to come up with ways to continue teaching their labs.

Dr. Cathy Newman, who teaches plant and animal form and function, has modified her lab to be as safe as possible while also giving students the chance to participate in a face-to-face lab.

Her class is usually taught through both lectures and two-hour labs. To reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, attending the labs is not required, but still available for students who want to participate.

For students who do attend the lab, the class has been cut into two sections. Half of the class attends for the first hour, and the other half for the second hour.

Newman said that making the labs optional has reduced the number of students participating which has lessened the risk of COVID-19 exposure even more.

Her pre-lab lectures are now recorded and posted on Moodle, and lab quizzes are done online as well.

“My goal this semester is to effectively teach the course content while doing what I reasonably can to reduce anxiety in students’ lives,” Newman said.

One of Newman’s students, Raegan Abadie, feels that the class, while modified, is still just as effective as it normally would be.

“It does feel a bit rushed,” Abadie said. “But I think it is the most effective with the circumstances.”

The senior biology pre-med major chose to attend the labs and said that there are many precautions being taken to keep herself and others safe. Students must sit in alternating seats and masks are required in the lab.

Abadie had a lab that was switched to online in the spring, and said that made it difficult for her.

“I am someone who asks a lot of questions,” she said. “A professor can only explain so much online and I know sometimes I need guidance when doing experiments.”

While Newman’s class is a hybrid, there are some labs this semester that are 100% online. Jasmine Brown, a junior toxicology major, is taking two of those.

She said that for her, the online physics I lab is working out. They do lab sheets and the professor posts videos explaining things the students may not know how to do. But she said she would benefit more from the organic chemistry lab if it were face-to-face.

“I think the organic chemistry lab would definitely be more effective in person,” Brown said. “We write reports for every lab so it’s nice to have seen and taken part in what actually happens in an experiment before writing the report.”