Lab-based classes get creative following campus shut-down

Though the transition will not be easy, science labs will be made available to students online for the remainder of the semester. 

“Along with everything else (labs) are going online,” Department Chair of Physics Dr. Eric Ayars said. “This will be a challenge, but we’re finding solutions.”

Ayars described several options being employed by GSEC faculty. 

In some cases, professors are recording themselves performing labs and having students take time and distance measurements from the videos to apply to their own analysis. 

For other courses, pictures of apparatuses are supplied along with data sets for student analysis. 

At least one lab in the physics department will be conducted via Zoom from the comfort of the professor’s work space at home — the idea being that students can direct the professor through the experiment and record the results as their own. 

One instructor sent a bag of parts home with each student and is now designing interesting experiments that the students can perform with those pieces. 

“These are just some of the methods I’m seeing the physics faculty employ, and I expect to see others I’ve not even heard of yet,” Ayars said. “Our department is part of a much broader Physics Education community, and across the country we are sharing ideas for solving this nationwide problem.”

Department Chair of Biological Sciences Dr. Johnathan Day shared a similar message.

“We are all trying to cope…” Day said. “All labs in our department are doing something to help our students get through the material and meet the student learning objectives.” 

While the transition is challenging, Ayars maintains a positive outlook and insists that his staffs’ attitudes are very “can-do.” 

“We’re working together and sharing ideas and approaching the problems with an attitude of ‘We’re Physicists, we’ll figure this out!’,” Ayars said. 

Meanwhile, Day emphasizes a commitment to maintaining a sense of normalcy in these challenging times. 

“…It’s business as usual,” Day said, “except faculty and staff are working from home. Not everyone is happy, but everyone understands the problem.” 

Both Day and Ayars believe that forcing students to delay graduation because of this is completely off the table. 

“Telling a student ‘you can’t graduate because we can’t figure out how to transition lab x to online’ is not going to happen in our department,” Ayars said.

Day agreed, saying: “Everyone should graduate on time.” 

Emily Neria can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @NeriaEmily