The 2021 JoVE Science Education and Research Innovation Awards aimed to recognize and celebrate creative solutions to assist researchers worldwide in joining the future-focused research network. This series of blog posts consolidates themes, notes, and resources collated from outstanding entries from researchers worldwide. It includes meaningful insights and innovative ideas from a global community of researchers, aiming to accelerate the transformation and deepen the impact of scientific research. Below you can read the entry by Ph.D. Biljana Mojsoska, Associate Professor, Department of Science and Environment (DSE) at Roskilde University.
Every year I teach an introductory course in Organic Chemistry for first-year students at the Department of Science and Environment (DSE) at Roskilde University. I am the course coordinator for this course and thereby responsible for both the course structure and schedule. The course consists of theoretical and practical parts, and the attendance varies from 40-80 students.
In spring 2020, all educational institutions worldwide were hit with COVID-19 epidemic conditions that challenged the teaching environment. This situation required urgent change in teaching conditions to continue maintaining its purpose so that the education system could continue. COVID-19 lockdown prevented lectures from being held in class, and therefore the teaching was continued in a virtual environment using online tools and different modes of instruction; despite challenges such as student availability and online access and finding appropriate teaching platforms during the pandemic, the pedagogical challenge that teachers worldwide were facing was how to create an online course that would complete a high degree of student engagement assumed in face-to-face classroom teaching. In addition, courses that offered practical parts could not execute the related laboratory practices. In this case, the laboratory work was postponed, or alternative methods were suggested. In my class, I transferred the practical part online to keep the course on the original schedule hoping that the alternative mode of introducing the valuable component to the students would meet most of the course objectives regarding the laboratory part.
Description of the activity
For the laboratory part of the course, I substituted face-to-face laboratory exercises with video material (YouTube, JoVE and Labster Virtual reality). The students would watch the assigned experiment being performed online and take notes, and answer laboratory reports. Since the students could not physically attend the laboratory exercise and ask questions during the training, I adapted the schedule to include weekly 2 hour sessions with the instructor and the teaching assistants asking lab exercise-related questions. Laboratory video material was made available on Moodle, and links were provided in the adjusted laboratory notebook whall practices’. The aim he expectations were revisited and adjusted to the new mode of instruction. Here I introduced the concept of “dry lab.”
What is a “dry” lab?
This concept involves laboratory video material that reflects on the laboratory techniques introduced as part of the lab curriculum. These videos are chosen by the instructor based on the content and the quality. The students learn about the laboratory technique by engaging in the short video material.
Another adjustment to the laboratory part was the assessment. The traditional way of assessing multiple student reports had been via email, where the students would send their reports and get written feedback from the instructor. For one of the exercises, this year for the first time, we implemented a peergrade tool for assessment where the students would engage more with the assessment of their fellow peers. In this way, the students were expected to be able to not only give explanatory feedback but learn from the lab reports from the other student groups (learn by giving feedback). Peergrade was integrated into Microsoft Teams, where I had the class channel, and students were introduced to the concept of Peergrade. The steps of using Peergrade include the following:
1. the teacher sets up an assignment
2. the students submit their work
3. the students review each other’s work and engage by giving feedback
4. the teacher gets a complete overview of the report and the feedback
5. the teacher resolves any conflicts in the feedback
Student attendance at the Teams lab sessions was not very high, even though all students managed to pass their reports. For some of the video material available on the RUCs video portal or through the JoVE link, I followed the number of views as an estimate of student engagements even though the number of ideas does not reflect single views but could be attributed to a student watching the same video multiple times. A summary of the opinions is included in table 1.
Table 1. Number of views of instructional videos after online lab sessions and before the exam and re-exam. Instruction videos*
After LAB EXAM Before the exam
Number of views
1. IR 18 20 20
2. Extraction 7 8 8
3. TLC 24 24 24
1Infrared spectroscopy, 2 extractions (liquid or solid ),3 TLC ( thin layer chromatography) *All videos were supplemented by JoVE (Journal of visualized experiments)
What were the outcomes?
At the end of the course, I got student feedback on open-ended questions regarding the lab work and Peergrade as a tool. Some of the student responses are summarized below.
Student 1: “It made me realize what I should have added, so I liked that aspect.”
Student 2: “I have a feeling that in the course the dry lab experience has been better: The video, the material … understood what I was doing ..”
Table 2. Questionnaire results from students on the following statement -“Even though I did not do the lab experiments in real lab settings, I still learned a lot from the “dry” lab exercises.”
Due to the circumstances, finding relevant videos to substitute for the lab part and adapting the schedule to meet the course objectives took more time than initially anticipated. However, the JoVE team accommodated me with the links and granted me access to the necessary video platform for my course. I will use the video instruction material as supplementary material in my subsequent teaching sessions as a lab preparation before students go into the wet lab. Through questionnaires and pre-and post-tests, I will investigate whether this application boosts students’ cognitive understanding of what they will do in the lab.
Kenneth Jack Jensen and Assoc Prof. Torben Lund were part of the team to select video materials for the appropriate exercises in the “dry lab” scenario. The Peergrade and SurveyXact work was supported by Thomas Køier Jakobsen and Morten Erik Møller.
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