Hands-free biology: Lab training outside the lab

By John Bach

Biological Sciences is one of the most popular programs in UC’s College of Arts and Sciences. But how do you teach lab skills to more than 700 students who can’t come to a lab?

That was the challenge for assistant professor Brent Stoffer, who supervises introductory biology labs. “Students are accustomed to spending three hours each week in the lab doing hands-on activities — designing their own experiments and learning transferable skills along the way,” he said.

“The big challenge was not just the physical space but the sheer scale at which we operate,” he said. “We had to transition 720 students to a digital space.”

Stoffer said he has been keeping up with the latest digital tools, particularly videos demonstrating lab concepts and measuring the students’ comprehension. Students also used digital tools to put together research presentations as they would under normal circumstances.

“It was rewarding to see students step up and go above and beyond our expectations,” Stoffer said.

Excerpted from: UC faculty and staff complete historic academic undertaking in response to COVID-19, by John Bach, UC News

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