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Advice for educators: Marc Demolder's tips for successfully teaching practical labs in an online environment.

Throughout the disruptions caused by Covid-19, Marc Demolder and other educators at the University of Antwerp have continued to offer practical labs to students, by using Lt.
 

Marc Demolder University Antwerp | Physiology | Lt ADI

Marc DeMolder, University of Antwerp

Marc Demolder (MSc Eng) manages the practical exercises for biological science classes at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. Students get hands-on experience and gain deeper scientific knowledge, with exercises ranging from recording nerve action potentials to analyzing echo-cardiographs to exercise physiology experiments.

Marc says, "students have a better understanding of the courses due to the fact that they can get hands-on. Their self-confidence, memory, and retention is much better."

Related: Future-proofing your course: How Ed Merritt moved his lab-based course online in a matter of weeks.

But the ability for science educators to deliver valuable hands-on, interactive practical labs has become compromised during the Covid-19 disruptions as educational institutions around the world have quarantined their campuses and stopped face-to-face classes.

Marc and his team have been able to continue to provide practical exercises for their students, even during the quarantine period using Lt - our online learning platform for biological sciences.

Lt is designed so that life science educators can engage students in meaningful interactive learning activities whether they are teaching in the lab, totally remotely, or a mix of both.

Marc's top pieces of advice for educators wanting to successfully teach practical labs remotely: 

1. Find high-performance software
"The biggest key to a successful online lab is to find a high-performance software, like Lt. Moving lab sessions online demands a solid software environment with integrated software management of logins and follow up of the student work."

2. Ensure the software supports modern teaching methodologies
"Find software that makes it easy to implement modern aspects of teaching, like blended learning. Easy implementation or editing of the lab session content in a user-friendly software environment, which allows state-of-the-art tools to be added into the content, like videos, links, grading tools."

3. Look for compatibility with modern data acquisition and transducers
"Modern data acquisition and transducers will complete the state-of-the-art aspect of an online lab. The use of modern transducers and data acquisition to give the students the possibility to measure on their own bodies. Current transducers with implemented Bluetooth or other communication protocols can open up new possibilities."

 

A versatile way to deliver practical classes

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Marc had been using Lt to deliver practical face-to-face labs to the students. As an online platform, students simply login to Lt from their desks to access their lab instructions and protocols (including set-up videos, diagrams, etc). Lt contains the instructions for how to record signals plus quizzes and interactive activities that help to reinforce and deepen student understanding. Using Lt in this way means that educators can spend more time interacting with students about science and concepts, rather than solving technical issues.

Marc also used Lt's online capabilities for blended learning as a way to deliver pre-lab preparation material to students, ensuring that they arrive ready for their labs. Using Lt it is easy to make additions and edits to course material instantly and to administer and assess students. 

Because Marc had already been using Lt on-campus, it was simple and quick to move classes entirely online with minimum effort and time wasted, and without losing the valuable practical exercises.

Marc says, "The main reason for our quick change to online is that Lt is already a fully online environment and there is little difference between using Lt on campus or in the pure online mode. On-campus, students record data into Lt. But we could quickly adjust to the online mode by initializing the example data feature in Lt."

Related: Lt comes with ready-made course material for sciences, nursing, and medicine.

Example data - useful in class or online

Lt's in-built example data, which educators can switch on at any time, has proven very useful for keeping labs interactive in a remote environment. Marc says, "Using Lt's example data as a solution for effective data analysis for teaching in an online virtual mode has been a welcome and easy-to-implement solution."

And Lt's example data isn't only useful for online teaching. Marc also uses the example data to help students prep for their usual face-to-face labs via blended learning: "We use Lt's example data so that students can, for example, preview how an ECG trace looks, prior to coming to a lab." As well as this, Marc uses Lt's example data as a backup for when students can't quite manage to record a clean signal to analyze during class. Lt's example data is useful as a substitute, especially for hard to get data like visual evoked potentials, so that students can still get the experience of performing useful analysis. 

Find out more: How to use example data to teach Labs remotely.

Easily switch between in-lab and online, whenever you need

Using Lt, Marc has been able to continue teaching his classes online - even practical classes - without fuss and without having to start from scratch to learn a new online system. When classes return to "normal", the switch back to using Lt for in-lab classes will be easy.

If the need to teach totally or partially online should arise again in the future, educators who use Lt will be prepared to seamlessly switch between in-person and online teaching, with no time wasted and minimal disruption to their students' learning. There are no new login details or passwords to manage, and all of the class admin and grading capabilities already exist, not to mention all of your coursework. 

Related: 10 Tips for online teaching: How to successfully teach remotely.

Prepare for future evaluations and accreditations that will make online capabilities mandatory

For a number of years, universities around the world have been required to implement some form of online course delivery. However, many institutions have not taken this accreditation seriously or seen any real need to establish strong online capabilities - until now.

Lt is a modern, effective online learning platform that helps educators to improve their engagement with students in any situation - whether it be face to face or totally online.

With the current Covid-19 situation, educational institutions, departments, or even individual educators who have been prepared have benefitted. Marc says, "We use Lt over 3 faculties for about 900 students in total. The University of Antwerp really emphasizes e-learning and blended learning and we make an important point of our education. Importantly, at our University, every 3 to 4 years, we have an external evaluation. With Lt, we will have an excellent accreditation."

In conclusion, Marc says, "Lt provided us a versatile software environment with the use of example data which made the switch to virtual labs an easy and successful operation in this COVID19 lockdown."

The majority of Lt's labs include example data that students can analyze within the software, so you can still teach lab-based concepts while in an online environment. For more information about how Lt can help you teach your lessons and labs remotely, please visit our COVID-19 response page.


Marc Demolder University Antwerp | Physiology | Lt ADI

Marc Demolder (MSc Eng) works within the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, where he manages the practical laboratories and exercises for the University's biological science classes.

For information about Marc's research, check out his most recent publications.


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