CM – The COVID-19 crisis is giving rise to new approaches to distance learning in science

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April 27, 2021

from New York University

A new paper on science courses in college, taught remotely, highlights teaching methods that improve student communication and collaboration, and provide a framework for online classroom enrichment in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic personal courses continue to be restricted.

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« These varied exercises allow students to engage in extraordinarily challenging circumstances – and from around the world – to band together, go outside, do important lab work, and conduct group exams and presentations, » explains Erin Morrison. Professor of Liberal Studies at New York University and the lead author of the paper that appears in the Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education. « The active learning toolbox can be effectively used remotely to ensure high quality science education even in sudden conditions in a public health crisis. »

The rapid shift from largely caused by the COVID-19 pandemic In-person to completely remote teaching and learning posed numerous challenges for teachers and professors in all subjects – especially in the natural sciences, which often require in-person laboratory work.

Furthermore, the move from in-person to distance learning in the spring of 2020 meant educators changing their methods had to adapt quickly to an online environment – a circumstance that Morrison, along with their co-authors Genia Naro-Maciel and Kevin Bonney, faced. Classes begin in the middle of the semester last spring.

The trio implemented several methods after the courses were removed in March 2020, allowing a comparison between in-person and online teaching and learning within the same class. Among these were the following, which were the focus of the Journal of Microbiology’s & Biology Education Paper: a biodiversity hands-on activity, an interactive human genetics laboratory, and an environmental science research project.

In this hands-on activity, entitled  » Backyard Biodiversity « the students had to walk around their neighborhood and identify unique plant species. The exercise can be carried out at any time and at any location on site with the freely available SEEK app for identifying organisms or an alternative. Paired students from different locations around the world then analyzed data and prepared online presentations to fully immerse themselves in the scientific process as they retreated from their computers to nature.

In the interactive lab, studied online – Students learn about Mendelian inheritance by interacting with each other remotely and focusing on human traits. The class data gathered through these observations was then analyzed and used to discuss related scientific concepts and misunderstandings. This online activity successfully engaged students and promoted learning by maintaining the focus on human features and the ability to observe the faces of classmates, while facilitating valuable student-student interactions during the collection, analysis and discussion of class-generated data .

The pandemic also provided an opportunity to turn a personal conservation biology research project into an online environmental health study by experiencing the pandemic in real time. Students worked digitally in teams to examine, analyze, and visualize underlined but significant interactions between human health and environmental health. The often overlooked relationships between the spread of diseases like COVID-19 and wildlife trafficking or deforestation have been explored to highlight links between human and non-human systems. Students also researched and learned how to debunk myths and misunderstandings, develop key critical thinking skills amid widespread and growing misinformation and disinformation.

« The work demonstrates how the faculty is leveraging the flexibility of the online environment and existing ones Can use remote tools to expand active learning opportunities and make meaningful connections with the classroom, even remotely and during a global pandemic, « says Morrison. « Although participants were physically distant from one another around the world, timely and effective communication was maintained and students were able to access alternative and freely available materials to conduct and complete practical field, research, and laboratory activities. »

For example, in the biodiversity activity conducted last spring, 60 students with no prior botany experience went outside and identified more than 1,200 plant species around the world while conducting the exercise.

In addition, the professors noted that students were consistently more interested and engaged in the Mendel exercise than almost any other, and performed better on exam questions on these subjects than in previous face-to-face classes. Similarly, shifting the research exercise to group work focused in real time on the pandemic has significantly increased engagement and interest.

« We have a level of class engagement and interest among the students who completed these activities found mastery of the content that was above the level observed in the corresponding personal learning activities in previous semesters, « says Bonney.

 » During the unexpectedly sudden transition from personal to completely distant education due to COVID-19 In the pandemic, it has often been a challenge to keep the students busy and learning, « adds Naro-Maciel. « In response, we have successfully adapted three activities to the remote environment to achieve remote experiential learning, design a remote interactive virtual laboratory, and actively involve students in remote research. »

According to anecdotal observations about Success in promoting learning about key concepts and engagement in the classroom, the team plans to formally explore the effectiveness of these techniques in the future, which may lead to educational changes being made beyond returning to face-to-face teaching.

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Associated title :
New approaches for Science teaching emerges from a distance from the COVID-19 crisis
New York University: New Approaches to Science Education from the COVID-19 Crisis

Ref: https://phys.org

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