In the face of these challenges and observations, the project proposes the following specific solutions:
- Using a Problem-Based, Inverted approach to teach Experimental Design: Students are assigned a scientific problem well before the lab course begins, and are additionally given the information needed to address it (available materials, experimental methods and so on) in order to develop the appropriate experiment. In other words, it is the students’ task to put together the building blocks of the experiment addressing their scientific problem. The aim is to develop an experimental procedure to be followed in the lab subsequently. In this way, students develop the lab manual, which is later quality-controlled and approved by peers with input from supervisors.
- Incorporating Digital Interventions to teach Experimental Design: Asynchronous digital solutions replacing in-person teaching at Jacobs University have proven quite successful when in-person teaching is not possible. More specifically, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the “Advanced Biochemistry Lab Course” relied on some experiment-introductory videos. Therefore, designing this lab course with a problem-based approach for the future will also include a series of tailor-made videos, that will present content such as: theoretical background, experimental methods and equipment handling. These visual aids aim to increase the students’ level of understanding before the course begins, fostering autonomy and encouraging them to develop their own solutions to a problem, as opposed to being handed an extensive lab manual.
The new course will cover the following phases:
a) Preparatory Phase: Students are given preparatory material three weeks before the beginning of the lab course, including:
1. Paper detailing their project/scientific problem
2. Methodology videos, which detail the kinds of controls required and the multiplicates (duplicates, triplicates) needed for statistics.
3. Instrument handling videos
4. Material Safety Data Sheet format (empty)
5. Example of a common lab manual produced at the end of the experimental design session
6. Example of a final lab report
b) Beginning of the Course:
- At the start of the course, students will join experimental design sessions in a collaborative way in order to produce experimental procedures, presenting their plans to peers for constructive feedback
- Once a common lab manual is produced, it will be quality-controlled and finalized after inter-group discussion and input from supervisors before the first lab day.
c) Course Development:
The first groups of students will work in the lab while the other groups do seminars on biochemical calculations, writing/format, statistical methods etc. Subsequent groups will follow with their lab work afterwards.
d) Course Conclusion:
Upon completion of lab work phase, it is envisioned to have a student-led wrap up session to exchange data, interpret the results, and discuss presentation of lab reports.