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Effective learning through a remote lab kit in an undergraduate invertebrate biology course

Journal of College Science Teaching—March/April 2024 (Volume 53, Issue 2)

By Daniel Zarate, Kathleen Sheahan, Jingchun Li

Active learning provides students with meaningful and introspective roles in education. However, it’s difficult to achieve in online class settings, particularly for biology laboratories initially designed to offer direct interactions with live organisms. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a transition towards online learning was required in higher education institutions, creating challenges and opportunities to reform and rethink teaching practices. Here, we report our success in designing and implementing an at-home lab for an undergraduate invertebrate biology course. The objective was for students to learn about cnidarian photosymbiosis in a three-week-long experiment using live anemones. Additionally, we tested if learning outcomes are improved when adding a learning-by-teaching experience. We divided the 19 participating students into two groups where half created videos to teach their experiment to a hypothetical high-school audience, and half made video reports for their instructors. We observed that the teaching group showed better topic comprehension than the reporting group. Overall, students responded positively to this online learning experience and expressed an increased understanding of cnidarian photosymbiosis. We provide recommendations for implementing this lab with greater success and at larger scales. We argue that adding teaching scenarios in remote learning can benefit students’ overall knowledge comprehension.

Biology Distance Learning General Science Labs Pedagogy

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