Like many educators around the world, Ed Merritt, kinesiology lecturer at Southwestern University, Texas, has been tasked with the challenge of finding a suitable solution to teach his lab-based courses remotely.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Ed had had little experience with ADInstruments’ equipment. He had used a PowerLab for undergraduate research, but never in a teaching environment. But this didn’t stop him from embracing the unknown and trialing our online learning platform Lt as a remote learning solution.
We asked Ed to share the biggest challenges of moving his lab-based courses online and his experience using Lt to deliver his lessons and labs remotely...
Related: Marc Demolder's tips for successfully teaching practical labs in an online environment.
Going online in a hurry
‘Two big challenges with switching to online teaching were the short time frame in which we had to switch, and the considerations for how to actually get interactive laboratory content. ADInstruments was one of the first online content providers that reached out to me once everything was shut down, and initially, that was a big reason why I used them. They kept the barrier to entry low and were very responsive from the beginning.'
Getting started with Lt was quick and easy
Ed was surprised at how easy it was to sign up and start using Lt. Ed says, ‘With only about 2 weeks to redesign the 2nd half of the semester's content (on top of suddenly having my 4 and 6-year-old to deal with 24/7), it did not allow much time to learn new systems or think about the best pedagogical approaches.'
'However, once I got my access to Lt and started looking through the lessons, I was relieved and surprised at how easy they were to navigate and how intuitive the program was. I know that sounds very much like "marketing" talk, but it was absolutely true. If I had known how easy Lt was to use before this, I probably would have switched from our other platforms long ago.’
Lt provided a solution for teaching lab-based courses online
One of the biggest challenges physiology lecturers are facing at the moment is how to teach face-to-face laboratories online. For most students, these sessions provide an opportunity to solidify the concepts and processes they have learned during lectures by collecting real-life physiological data from themselves or their peers.
'The best part for me was how intuitive it was for the students, as evidenced by the lack of emails I received asking how to do things. Clearly their experience was positive and I even heard back about it in their end of semester evaluations. Several students said they really liked the format and found the labs super helpful.’
Find out more: How to use Lt's example data to teach labs remotely.
Lt as a long-term teaching solution
When asked if he would continue using Lt as an online learning solution for his course in upcoming semesters, Ed replied, ‘I think it [Lt] can be an incredibly useful supplement for face-to-face labs and lessons, especially pre and post-lab when students need to prepare and refresh the content.’
‘We are switching to ADInstruments’ PowerLabs for our A&P [Anatomy and Physiology] labs next year, and I anticipate I'll use much of the material as I did this semester. I especially like the pre-lab exercises and using the labeling of the organs and questions as a review for practicals.’
Advice for other educators moving their course online
Moving your course online can be a daunting process. With so many different options out there, how do you know which one to choose? We asked Ed to share three key pieces of advice for educators who may be struggling with the move online or those still looking for a solution.
1. Simplicity is key - ‘Simplicity in the interface is important. Many content providers have the ability to do similar things as Lt, but when the interface is too complex and/or not intuitive, students struggle to get through labs.’
2. Don’t underestimate the importance of customer support - ‘Efficient customer support is imperative. This is always hard to gauge when talking with a salesperson or reading marketing material, but ask to speak with others who use the same product. Inevitably you will have an issue with any hardware/software you're using, and being able to quickly solve the problem can be the difference between the lab being educationally effective.’
3. Pick a solution that will save you time - ‘Find a system that can save you time as opposed to taking up your time. If labs are simple to set up "out of the box" and student work can be reviewed effectively and efficiently, this frees you up to interact with the students more, or just have time for all the other parts of a faculty members' various duties.’
Related: 10 Tips for Teaching Online – How to successfully teach remotely and keep your students engaged
Ed Merritt (Ph.D.) is an Assistant Professor at Southwestern University, Texas. Last year (2019), he was the recipient of the Macknight Early Career Innovative Educator Award for incorporating innovative teaching techniques and effectively utilizing technology for the engagement of students in physiology education.
Outside of his teaching, Ed’s primary research focus is on helping trauma and burn victims regain muscle functionality. For more information about Ed’s research, check out his most recent publications.
Are you interested in using Lt to deliver your course? Try Lt now - for free!
Lt comes complete with over 360 ready-to-use lessons and labs for teaching physiology, anatomy, biology, nursing, and medicine. Our content is fully customizable, so you can easily add in your own text, videos, or images to shape the lessons to fit your specific teaching needs. View all 10 content collections »
The majority of our labs also include example data that students can analyze within the software, so you can still teach lab-based concepts in an online environment!