Face-to-Face, Virtual, or Hybrid Labs – Which One’s Best?
Remember all the way back to March 2020? When this new phenomenon called COVID-19 caused many schools to extend their spring breaks so departments could figure out how to navigate it? The decision to go remote and the mad dash to configure courses to online instruction? The hope that if you could just hang on until the semester ended, you’d have succeeded?
Perhaps that was the beginning of your experience with going fully digital. And it’s definitely possible, in the scramble to get something workable online ASAP, you found that experience frustrating. It’s also possible that despite yourself, you found some aspects of digital labs you liked.
If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that the future can be uncertain. It’s impossible to plan for every contingency. You already put the work into planning your labs and making sure they fulfill course objectives. Now frame those plans around the parts of the lab, breaking them down into their pre-lab, lab, and post-lab components. And think about the lab experience this way: you don’t have to do all of one or the other. The world has forever changed and you and your students have too. What worked for you before—was that really the best lab experience you could provide? Or was it habit that worked well enough?
Think about the lab class(es) you teach. Is it a lower-level general lab, a lower-level lab for majors, a higher-level lab? Are your students local? Do you have plenty of lab space? Do you have plenty of instructors? Do your instructors have plenty of time to spend grading lab work? Are you working on a budget or trying to adhere to a budget for the sake of your students? As you can see, this isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation.
The safest route to go would be to teach this way. Labs delivered through third party software or different resources cobbled together and integrated into an LMS. While safe, the students miss the tactile experiences of wet labs.
Generations of students have gone to lab to get their lab work done. Generations of teachers have always taught this way too. For many, it’s the most familiar path and familiarity brings comfort. There remain challenges here, including future school closings or teacher or student absences. Furthermore, many schools are finding they have fewer resources and just as many or even more students to get through labs.
A hybrid method: providing pre-lab and post-lab instruction and assessments while still bringing students into the lab to conduct experiments, while perhaps the most difficult to coordinate, might solve the issues of virtual (no in-lab time) and face-to-face (necessity of actually being in a lab, not flexible).
Virtual Labs (Pros & Cons)
- Students can be enrolled anywhere they can connect electronically, even internationally, and classes can contain more students than an in-person lab
- Labs can be completed at a student’s leisure any time up until due date
- No need to purchase lab materials and set up and run labs and less need for other resources like people
- Labs are totally safe for the student and lab instructor!
- Consistent connection and adequate bandwidth could be issues
- It’s difficult to duplicate the lab experience with full digital instruction
- Figuring out how instructors can best interact with students can be a challenge—labs can feel disconnected from the human touch
- Meeting course objectives with pure digital can pose problems –no tactile hands-on experience
Face-to-Face Labs (Pros & Cons)
- It’s tradition! and a plethora of material has been developed by experts for use for the in-person delivery model as well as reams of research about in-person teaching methods
- Immediacy of ability to observe, ask questions, follow-through for both students and teachers
- Learning by doing in real time –actual interaction with lab equipment and materials
- No technological issues of bandwidth, mastering digital products
- Restricted to local enrollment
- Lab time may be difficult to schedule due to high enrollment/lack of lab space (high cost of lab facilities)
- Difficulty making up lab time missed due to phenomena like medical and weather emergencies
- Logistics of live labs: purchasing lab materials, setting up and coordinating labs, assigning and training the faculty needed to oversee and keep students safe
Hybrid Labs (Pros & Cons)
- A way for schools to accommodate fewer resources come this fall including instructors and lab time. And possibly more students needing to take lab courses
- Labs are the most customized materials on a campus, designed to meet course objectives while matching the lab equipment. This customization easily translates to the hybrid model
- Digital can be used for pre-labs to prepare the student for lab and post-lab to evaluate what students learned in lab
- Labs can pivot, go online quickly without too much pain or disruption allowing students the tactile experience when they can and adjusting to remote when they have to
- Students still require an electronic device: a computer/tablet/smartphone and a stable internet connection, and lab set up and resources to manage the lab
- Lab course prep requires more thought/effort between what material will be presented online and what will be done in person
- Instructors and students need to navigate between best uses of online and in-person instruction so benefits such as students requiring reduced lab time aren’t squandered
- Bias that since only a portion of the class (either pre-lab prep or both pre-and post-lab are done online) that the department and/or instructor needs to do all of this work themselves and place it on the school LMS, which requires comfort with digital, and the concern that the online work isn’t especially interactive
Van-Griner’s LabRight: Face-to-Face, Virtual or Hybrid Lab Solution
While uncertainty in your learning environment isn’t immediately going away, you can rely on LabRight to provide you a flexible, affordable, digital solution. And when labs meet in-person again, Van-Griner Learning and LabRight are there to make the changes so you don’t have to re-invent your lab. For example, if your resources aren’t at the same level as they were prior to the pandemic, LabRight can assist by making your wet labs more efficient through:
- Virtual labs, especially for labs that don’t necessarily require face-to-face time
- Pre- and post-lab preparation and grading tools
Wherever your labs end up, we’ll work with you on the transition.
Contact Us (419-733-7951) For More Information!
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