Information And Actions Being Taken Related To COVID-19
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Virtual Labs

Continuing Instruction of Laboratory Classes at a Distance


The Continuity of Instruction Plan (COIP) provides guidance on how to continue instruction at a distance in the event of an emergency disruption that results in the suspension of all activities and classes on campus.  In the event of campus closure and implementation of our COIP, faculty and students will still be responsible for completing laboratory courses and continuing instruction at a distance.  The following Continuation of Laboratory Instruction Plan (COLIP) provides specific recommendations for faculty in the challenging task of maintaining laboratory classes at a distance. 

Planning Steps

When planning alternate laboratory activities:

1.  Identify the learning outcomes for each activity. Some recommendation are provided below:

  • Developing a Scientific Habit of Mind
    • Follow a procedure
    • Take detailed notes
    • Perform replicate measurements
  • Observational Skills
    • Record visual, auditory, olfactory, or tactile phenomena
    • Utilize an instrument to record phenomena
  • Safety Skills
    • Complete procedures/activities safely
    • Evaluate a situation for safety concerns
  • Physical Skills
    • Demonstrate the ability to use equipment, e.g., pipette, buret, microscope, electronics
  • Processing Skills
    • Create a scientifically-valid hypothesis
    • Demonstrate the ability to communicate observations, analyses, and conclusions
    • Demonstrate the ability to evaluate results
  • Quantitative Skills
    • Graph data to gain insight on phenomena
    • Perform calculations to obtain new knowledge
    • Evaluate significance of data

2.  Decide whether hands-on activities are required to achieve your course/lab outcomes. In making this decision, you should carefully consider safety, the availability/cost of materials/equipment, and the nature of the home environment.

  • If hands-on activities are deemed necessary, the following actions must occur:
    • Students need to be given safety guidelines appropriate for the activity.
    • Students must pass a quiz based on these safety guidelines.
    • See Appendix A for additional guidelines.
    • As a second level of review, the Department Head must approve the activity.
  • If hands-on activities were deemed unnecessary, an appropriate alternative would need to be provided. (See Steps 3-5).

3.  Provide an alternative learning activity. There are many resources that you may draw from. See Appendix B for a list of these for various disciplines.  However, once you choose the activity, you should complete the activity yourself to prepare for student questions and concerns.  As you complete the activity, pay attention to:

  • Any instructions or procedures that may need additional clarification.
  • Opportunities for students to record data or observations.
  • Opportunities to assess student performance.

4.  Design your assignment:

  • Include learning objectives.
  • Include links or references to any instructional materials students may need to review prior to completing the activity, e.g., textbook/lab manual reading, videos, webpage.
  • Include instructions for:
    • Accessing the virtual lab resource (e.g., full html, link in Canvas, directions for accessing textbook resource)
    • Completing the activity
      • Consider including screenshots of any part of the virtual activity that is not self-explanatory.
      • If the activity is not self-correcting or does not provide a scoresheet, consider creating a “student data sheet” for students to record data and observations.
    • Documenting activity completion
      • Will students submit a screen shot of their virtual progress or scoresheet?
      • Will students complete an instructor created assignment, e.g., data sheet, analysis questions, lab report?
      • Will students be expected to apply the information acquired from the activity to a second assignment, e.g., quiz, discussion board, problem set, case study?
    • Submission of any required documentation.
  • Explain how you plan to assess/grade the activity.
    • Will you provide a grading rubric?
    • Will students get credit for completion? Correctness?
    • How will the virtual activity count in your grading? Will it be the same as another planned assessment or will it be weighted differently?
  • Include a due date.

5.  Post your assignment to Canvas.

  • Choose a consistent location/method for posting all virtual assignments.
  • Be consistent with posting new activities and deadlines. For example, what is the expected learning cycle—one activity per week?  What day of the week should students expect to have deadlines?
  • Choose a consistent method for student submission. Will it be through discussion board, as an assignment, through a journal, through a quiz?

APPENDIX A:  Example of Home Lab Safety Guidelines

The following rules should be included in courses that require any type of hands on activity or outing.

  • You are responsible for following lab safety procedures to keep yourself and others in your environment safe as you complete all home labs and activities associated with this course. If an activity feels unsafe, stop immediately and ask for further guidance before continuing with the procedure.
  • ALWAYS read the assigned home lab activity completely—from start to finish—BEFORE you begin.
    • Take note of any specific safety guidelines or reminders for a given lab activity or assignment.
    • If you are unsure of the procedure after reading the protocol, contact the instructor for clarity before starting.

The following guidelines are suggested for courses involving any “wet lab” activities:

  • Read through the information contained in the Safety Data Sheets if/when they are provided.
  • Select a safe site for lab activities in your home. The kitchen is recommended, but any place that is well ventilated, has a flat and stable working surface, has access to water, and can be cleaned easily in the case of spills is recommended.
  • Keep laboratory materials safely away from children and pets.
  • If possible, keep all unauthorized people out of your selected site when chemicals are in use in order to avoid any unforeseen accidents. If anyone is allowed to observe you or participate in experiments, follow all of the proper safety rules.
  • Do not eat, drink, or prepare food while conducting the lab experiment.
  • Never place any instruments or materials in your mouth.
  • Wear approved eye protection at all times doing your lab activities.
  • Confine long hair when doing your lab activities.
  • Wear closed-toe shoes when doing your lab activities.
  • Use disposable containers for any lab involving chemicals - you do not want to prepare food in a vessel used for an experiment.
  • If you use non-disposable measuring cups or measuring spoons, wash items thoroughly before using for other home purposes.
  • Label all materials clearly, and make accurate observations and measurements so that you do not make mistakes or need to repeat experiments.
  • You may be asked to use several home appliances (blender, microwave, etc.) to complete your experiments. Please follow all manufacturers’ guidelines.
  • Be sure to thoroughly clean up after working on labs—the lab area, utensils and WASH YOUR HANDS!
  • Be prepared for Emergencies: Have the following emergency equipment handy in your working area: a fire extinguisher, water, a first aid kit, and a telephone.

The following guidelines are suggested for courses involving any outdoor activities:

  • You are responsible for your own safety when participating in an outdoor field activity. This involves properly preparing for the trip ahead of time and being aware of your surroundings while conducting the activity.
  • Plan ahead for the trip by:
    • Reviewing any posted policies or regulations of the location you are visiting and make a plan to abide by them.
    • Checking the weather and dressing appropriately.
    • Bringing sun protection and insect repellent.
    • Bringing sufficient water to stay hydrated.
    • Bringing a first aid kit.
    • Bringing a cell-phone or other device so that you will be able to call for help in the event of an emergency.
    • Letting someone know when and where you are going.
  • Be aware of your surroundings by:
    • Watching out for poisonous plants, dangerous animals, or stinging insects.
    • Avoiding unexpected hazards like flooding, broken glass, fallen trees, etc.
  • Be reminded that while participating in a class activity, you are representing the Citadel and are expected to be respectful.
  • Follow the “leave no trace” principles: dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors.

 NOTE: More detailed information regarding Home Lab Safety for particular experiments and activities should be placed at the beginning of each lab protocol or assignment description.

APPENDIX B:  List of Resources for Virtual Labs

JoVE Video Library:
Merlot Collection:
PhET Interactive Simulations:
NMSU Virtual labs:
Molecular Workbench
Wisconsin online:
The Nobel Prize Lessons and Games:

HHMI Biointeractive:
Learn Genetics:
Rutgers Virtual Biology labs:
WOW Biology:
Virtual Labs Stanford:

ChemCollective: Solutions:
ChemReaX:  Chemical Reaction Simulator:
Davidson Virtual Chem Labs:
Electrolyte Solution Simulator:
Oxford Virtual Chemistry:
Titration Screen Experiment:
Ideal Gas Law Virtual Laboratory:
ACD Chemsketch:

The Physics Classroom:
UCLA E-physics:
My Physics

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