Learning Science Case Study: Coventry University Biosciences

Learning Science have partnered with Coventry University to bring enhanced pre lab and post lab solutions to their bioscience students.

The project was initiated by Dr Sharon Williams from the School of Life Sciences. She was seeking a way to enhance student engagement, performance and satisfaction with practical labs.

After email communication, we met Sharon at a bioscience e-learning workshop, then visited her colleagues at Coventry University (arrange a free demo or trial here), presenting Learning Science’s pre lab interactive resources and post lab Smart Worksheet capabilities.

Our in-house team of experts worked together with lab organisers, combining our understanding of subject content, learning objectives and pedagogical challenges to design and develop a series of custom and bespoke solutions.

Starting September 2017, the resources were successfully launched to students.

 

Pre lab solutions

Students accessed Learning Science’s interactive pre lab activities from within their VLE. These active learning tasks boost confidence and skills in the equipment and techniques relevant to each practical.

The interactives have already been used thousands of times by hundreds of students at Coventry University. The most-used topics include: operating a pipette, basic labware, spectrophotometry, enzyme-catalysed reactions, and cloning overviews. See a full gallery of available resources here.

  One of the dozens of resources available in the  Learning Science Labs: Bioscience  package

One of the dozens of resources available in the Learning Science Labs: Bioscience package

We cater to customisation requirements, to suit individual lab needs. In the case of Coventry, we found they use Biohit pipettes in their teaching labs. Our pre lab interactives come with Gilson pipettes by default, but we were able to switch out the appearance and functionality to better support the students.

  A representation of customisation available in the  Learning Science Labs: Bioscience  package

A representation of customisation available in the Learning Science Labs: Bioscience package

Similarly, we tailored the cloning overview interactive to discuss the specific plasmid the Coventry students would be working with. Dr Sharon Williams said “I found using Learning Science to customise the pre lab very easy and efficient.

 

Post lab solutions

Working closely with academic leads and their lab manuals, we designed and developed bespoke online post lab assignments from the ground up - a total of seven for our first academic year in collaboration.

  Part of a bespoke  Smart Worksheet  made for a spectrophotometry lab practical

Part of a bespoke Smart Worksheet made for a spectrophotometry lab practical

Using our Smart Worksheet technology, we developed post labs for practicals on topics of basic lab skills, spectrophotometry, differentiating white blood cells, and analysing headache tablets using UHPLC and TLC techniques.

These resources were, in Sharon’s words: “a fantastic opportunity for students to get immediate feedback as well as a personalised learning experience.”

We also developed auto-graded post lab quizzes on a variety of cloning topics. One of these was run by Sharon, who posted a survey to obtain student feedback.

 

Survey results

The survey results showed that students (N = 25 second year students) were highly satisfied with the new pre lab and post lab provisions offered through Learning Science and Coventry University.

 Key to Pre Lab Chart  Practice: “The pre lab provided me with good opportunities to practice” Engage: “I found the resources engaging” Prepare: “Interactive online resources help me prepare for the lab”

Key to Pre Lab Chart

Practice: “The pre lab provided me with good opportunities to practice”
Engage: “I found the resources engaging”
Prepare: “Interactive online resources help me prepare for the lab”

The vast majority of students agreed or strongly agreed that the pre lab provided them with good opportunities to practice (92%), were engaging (96%) and believed that interactive online resources helped them prepare for the lab (84%).

Auto-graded post labs offer an opportunity for detailed, timely and consistent feedback provision, as well as freeing up valuable staff and demonstrator time during the busy term-time.

 Key to Post Lab Chart  Detail: “I am satisfied with the detail of the feedback” Timeliness: “I am satisfied with the timeliness of the feedback ” Consistency: “I am satisfied with the consistency of the marking”

Key to Post Lab Chart

Detail: “I am satisfied with the detail of the feedback”
Timeliness: “I am satisfied with the timeliness of the feedback ”
Consistency: “I am satisfied with the consistency of the marking”

The students also wrote a summative lab report for this practical, and preliminary evidence suggests the auto-graded post lab assignment increased the quality of the lab report, particularly amongst lower-ability students (results pending: Dr Sharon Williams).

Done properly, auto-graded post labs can serve as both an assessment task and a learning opportunity. In this survey, 100% of students agreed or strongly agreed that the post lab helped them understand the practicals, and the science behind them, more thoroughly.

One student commented: “I love pre and post lab activities, they allowed me to understand in deeply (sic) the lab practical I did and hence make easier on writing report. Great experience.

Another said: “It helped me understand how to do the calculations properly.

 

Conclusion

We are so pleased that the inclusion of the Learning Science resources has met staff expectations and benefitted Coventry University students.

The pre labs helped students engage and prepare for the lab. The post lab experience has enhanced student understanding of their practicals using detailed, timely and consistent feedback.

Thanks to Dr Sharon Williams for spearheading this project, to all the other Coventry University staff members who worked with us to develop these resources, and to the students who took the survey. We look forward to continuing and expanding our working partnership next academic year.

We work with universities across the UK and around the world. Our pre lab resource packages in chemistry and bioscience are available now, and our expert team is ready to create bespoke post labs to meet your teaching needs.

Visit our website or email info@learnsci.co.uk to find out more or book a free demo.