As the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, professors had to pivot their lab courses quickly —sometimes in a matter of hours—to work remotely. Physicist and physics education researcher JILA Fellow Heather Lewandowski began getting questions from instructors around the country: how do you teach a laboratory class when you can’t be in the lab?
Lewandowski received an NSF RAPID Grant to answer this question, and did what scientists do best: she gathered data. She received 106 survey responses from professors nationally and internationally, covering 129 physics education courses. These classes ranged from introductory to more advanced level coursework. Her study was published on arXiv on July 2.
It’s important to note that these courses were not intended to be taught remotely, Lewandowski pointed out. There are instructors who regularly work on virtual platforms, but this study looked at lab courses that had to switch to remote learning because of the coronavirus pandemic.
While there were numerous challenges to going remote, “I think we had a unique opportunity to learn some things that will help us when we get back to in-person classes,” Lewandowski noted.
Here are some key lessons for those planning courses in a virtual platform: