COVID-19 forced university campuses across the globe to close their doors. This resulted in many students and teaching staff members being forced to enter the world of online learning. Students enrolled in science lab courses, alongside the instructors teaching those courses, were among those who were significantly impacted by the transition to remote instruction.
Many instructors found themselves facing a unique challenge: How do you teach students the lab skills that are vital to their education if they are unable to enter the lab? In order to meet this challenge, some teaching staff members have begun hosting live streams and sending videos of themselves conducting experiments to their students in order to demonstrate important lab techniques.
In these new learning environments, students have reported feeling disconnected from their studies, worried that they’re not learning the skills they need moving forward. Instructors have noticed a lack of student engagement and participation in their lab courses.
These findings lead me to my design question
How might we help laboratory instructors with the remote learning experience in order to improve student engagement?
In order to build a deeper understanding of the problem space, I conducted six different one on one interviews over zoom with university students and teaching staff members. These interviewees were separated into two distinct participant groups shown below.
This was done in order to not only learn from the experiences of those who have experienced a remote lab course, but also to get insight into instructors concerns as they prepare for teaching a remote lab course.
Current university students and teaching staff members who have experienced taking or teaching a remote lab course.
Senior university education staff members who have not yet been required to teach a remote lab course.
Students feel disengaged due to a lack of interaction with teaching staff and an inability to deepen their understanding by running experiments. Instructors believe that students are not prepared for higher level lab courses, and fear that they will have severe deficits in their lab technique.
Both instructors and students viewed AR/VR as a promising way to try to bridge the gap in technical skill development between in person and online lab course offerings.