July 9 CHAS Chat: Virtual Chemistry Teaching Labs

On July 9, 2020, Sammye Sigmann of Appalachian State University led a CHAS Chat discussion of resources for teaching chemistry labs in virtual or blended formats. The next CHAS chat on teaching labs under Covid conditions is scheduled for July 23 from 3 to 4 PM Central Daylight Time and will be on Back in the Lab Again – Managing In-Person Teaching Labs in the era of Social Distancing led by Frankie Wood-Black.

The powerpoint file Sammye used to lead the July 9 discussion is available to download. Answers to some of the questions asked in the chat session are available below. The video Sammye showed that provides an Introduction to the Laboratory Space is available on Youtube.

You can download the video we recorded of the session here. A rough transcript of the discussion is available to CHAS members to review; contact Ralph Stuart, the CHAS membership chair, at membership@dchas.org for more information about accessing this.

Q&A from the chat

From  Neal Langerman : Sammye – in the pre-pandemic world, what out of pocket expenses did a student incur for a semester of lab? How does this compare w/ the $40 fee?

While we dropped this platform due to changing our textbook, in the past we had used Hayden McNeil’s Sapling to deliver quizzes to students in lab. If I am remembering correctly, it was ~$25 per semester.  This company is good about allowing students a year to use their paid subscription in case they drop the course. They are doing this with the simulations as well.

We have not asked, but is some institutions, they may cover the costs.  I know that some places are covering the cost of kits.

From  Aliana Lungu : Anyone can share resources for intro Organic Chemistry Labs (techniques, etc.)? Thank you!

There should be some in the spreadsheet at the first link on slide 13 of the ppt.

From  Connie Fox : We’ve discussed virtual labs – what about managing in-person teaching labs with associated limitations of distancing and cleaning between sections?

I did mention that we are reducing density by half in our labs – even though technically, we are low density due to fire code at 50 sq ft per student.  Low density on top of high ventilation should actually make labs some of the lower risk spaces. Additionally:

  • Each student will be provided with a disposable mask for each f2f lab week that they put in the trash at the end of lab. Logic being that if their cloth mask is unknowingly contaminated, it will not be immediately washed.  To me, masks are different than their clothes that might be unknowingly contaminated because they are breathing through them.
  • We are reducing movement and shared equipment where possible. We also will put out one balance for 3 students to keep congestion in the balance room down. There will be more reagent bottles to use.  Possibly we will go to gloves on all experiments. We are fortunate to have tabletop ventilation which will help with congestion at the fume hoods.
  • No partner experiments.
  • I am not exactly sure about cleaning between sections.  It may be that the students themselves help with this. I am thinking 70% EtOH in spray bottles.

From  Jennifer Gile : Sammye, thank you for the video, that’s an excellent idea.  Our department is doing videos on using the balance, pouring acids, etc. We’re hoping this helps when students come face to face. 

The more I think about using videos as prelab assignments, the better I like it!

From  Jennifer Gile : My department asked two questions for this webinar:

How can we make socially distanced labs flow better? 

I think that some of the idea in the question on managing in person labs speak to this question.

How can we make virtual labs more authentic? 

I like the idea of combining delivery methods – Maybe student watch a video of a person titrating and then go to the simulation software.  If you are able to do synchronous delivery during a set lab time the instructor could actually do the titration while the students watch.  That way they could ask questions.

We did touch on this a bit when there was discussion about course delivery requiring more work for students.  I think that is just how it is going to have to be.

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