Emergency Remote Teaching: How to quickly move biology courses online


2020 has been a turbulent year.

Science educators have needed to respond quickly to move their courses from a face-to-face lab-based environment to an online remote teaching environment in a matter of weeks.

For undergraduate biology, Lt’s Biology Collection, created in partnership with Vernier® Science Education, is designed so that biology educators can make the change to online teaching (and back again) quickly and easily, without compromising lesson quality or losing the ability to provide active learning activities for students. 

Empty classrooms have become the norm.

A year of sudden and unprecedented disruption

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused immense disruption to traditional teaching formats and has meant that many educators have had to transition their face-to-face courses into the online space at short notice and with few resources. Alongside this professional struggle, educators have had to deal with changing personal situations, disruptions to their research, and students who are worried about their learning and achievement.

Related: Keep calm and teach on: Prof. Tina Hinton’s experience during Covid-19 »

Emergency Remote Teaching

Of course, there is a distinction between courses that have been rapidly moved online out of necessity and courses that have had a considered migration to the online space, perhaps in combination with face-to-face sessions in the form of blended education. Many of the courses currently running around the world could be classified, rather than as online teaching, as emergency remote teaching - and should be evaluated as such. The potential of online learning is most likely not fully realized by the scramble to get students and faculty online.

Challenge: How to teach labs online?

In addition, for those teaching in the sciences, laboratory practicals present a unique problem. Labs are especially difficult to teach remotely, as they guide students in inquiry and emphasize hands-on, interactive learning. How can we replicate this experience for students who now must stay at home, apart from one another?

Related: Tips for teaching practical science labs in an online situation - Marc Demolder » 

Existing biology curriculum: room for improvement

And of course, like all fields of education, the undergraduate biology curriculum had some room for improvement even before campuses were closed. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, in their Vision and Change report of 2011, found that the fact-heavy undergraduate biology curriculum would benefit from:

  • Focusing on broader concepts (for example, evolution) and using facts to illustrate those concepts, providing a framework for the field of biology; 
  • Ensuring students become capable biologists by providing them with authentic research experiences, thereby developing vocationally relevant skills.

Related: Helping Students to Bloom – Fostering higher-level thinking in introductory biology » 

Improving outcomes for Introductory Biology

And then... 2020. The world has changed. Previously existing problems in Biology education are now accompanied by a global pandemic. How can we change our teaching methods to keep up?

To support educators,  ADInstruments and Vernier have come together to produce the Lt Biology Collection. The collection was initially designed to address many of the existing problems in the biology curriculum. An added bonus is that Lt - as a premiere online platform developed with active learning in mind - helps educators to operate successfully in an online learning environment. This 19-lab collection seeks to address a wide range of popular Introductory Biology topics, including:

  • Mitosis and Meiosis
  • Enzyme Action 
  • Diffusion 
  • Limitations on Cell Size 
  • Photosynthesis
Mitosis & Meiosis Biology Lab | Online teaching | Lt ADI

Idelisa Ayala, Associate Professor Biological Science, Broward College: 
My students and I loved the Mitosis and Meiosis lab! All activities that my students did satisfied our learning objectives. The editing part was very easy and user-friendly. All my students were able to log in and complete the lab without any problem at all. Honestly, I wouldn’t change anything."

Keep teaching labs online using Lt's example data

Delivered in our Lt learning platform, the Biology Collection is a solution that has been designed with uncertainty in mind. Pre-released during the COVID-19 pandemic, all 19 labs contain example data that enable your students to complete the labs remotely, wherever they are, minimizing interruptions to your curriculum and allowing you to keep moving. If your students are on campus, the lab can be completed in a face-to-face lab environment, with the majority using Vernier’s portable, easy-to-use range of Go Direct® sensors.


Try the Lt Biology Collection now...

Click here to find out more about the Biology Collection and how it can work for you. You can preview a selection of lessons or sign up to experience Lt via our free trial!



Lt Collections for teaching life science, medicine, nursing - online learning platform for interactive teaching and engaging students

 Additional resources

Darwin and the Lt Biology Collection - try Lt’s population genetics and evolution lab »

How nursing educator Ricci Wesselink has successfully used Lt to teach in a blended learning environment »

How to successfully teach remotely and keep your students engaged »

Tips for successfully teaching practical labs in an online environment »



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