COESP Spotlight #4: Remote Labs (Special Video Edition!)

COESP – Spotlight Series – January 2022

Inspire – Recognize - Share

Taking Inspiration from Lab Instructors – Part 2

Remote Labs (Special Video Edition!) 

Words By: Jessi Nelson

In the video + mini write-up: The departments in the College of Biological Science have several courses with required labs. In this Spotlight, labs in Integrative Biology and Human Health and Nutritional Sciences are featured as a video reflection from the instructors themselves.  

Find out more about: How lab courses and their instructional teams have kept students engaged during the pandemic and the innovations and educational strategies that will continue as a result. From recorded labs with multiple camera views, microscope cameras, mailed-out lab kits and a citizen science project, there is no shortage of amazing!!! 

Lab Instructional Teams Bring Meaningful Learning Experiences to Students 

Many courses in the College of Biology Sciences (CBS) at the University of Guelph have labs as an important part of the learning experience for students. Many students rely on these labs to gain essential skills and application of lecture-learned content in a hands-on, experiential way. In fact, for the labs featured in this Spotlight, there are over ten courses that these instructors teach and anywhere from 30-450+ students taking them during a given offering.  

Of course, the pandemic has resulted in challenges for lab instructional teams, but with many existing technologies and opportunities available, lab educators have made the most of the remote learning environment offering a myriad of high-quality alternatives that prioritize student learning, accessibility, and mental health. 

In this Spotlight, which contains a video and mini-writeup, we hear from some of the amazing lab instructors in CBS, each of whom have recorded their thoughts, insights, and behind-the-scenes details about the remote delivery of various labs. In seeing what these instructional teams have accomplished, it is hard to not imagine the array of possibilities that both labs and, more generally, higher education might have for students in the coming years.  

Now, sit back, relax, and press play!!! 

Video Transcript

When you’re done, take a look at the rest of the article for a few more tidbits of information about the educational teams, the courses and students who used them, and what tips and resources these instructors used, should you want to incorporate these learning strategies into your teaching.  

Human Health and Nutritional Sciences (HHNS) 

Human Kinetics and Kinesiology Courses & The Human Anatomy Lab  

The Human Anatomy Lab is unlike any other space at the University. It is a place where students can learn from whole body donors, which have been graciously donated by members of the community, to gain a close-up understanding of the intricacies of the human body, how it is constructed and the various layers of tissues and bones.  

The Human Anatomy Lab is run by passionate individuals who really love supporting student learning. It is currently made up of faculty instructors, a program manager, lab technicians, and graduate students!!!!  

Manager of the Human Anatomy Program - Premila Sathasivam 

Lab Technicians - Nina Andrejic, Ian Scagnetti, and James Turgeon 

Many graduate students and teaching assistants – all of whom play an essential role. 

Each semester over 500 students utilize the Human Anatomy lab over a spread of seven courses, three of which are sequential courses that students enrol during the fall and then winter terms.  

4 Human Kinetics Courses – instructed by Dr. Lorraine Jadeski 

  • HK*3501/3502 – Human Anatomy: Prosection (350+ students) 

  • HK*4441/4442 – Advance Study in Human Anatomy (40+ students) 

3 Kinesiology Courses 

  • KIN*1030/1040 Human Anatomy I/II – Instructed by Dr. William Albabish, Dr. Andrea Clark, and Dr. Lorraine Jadeski (100+ students) 

  • KIN*4040 Functional Anatomy – Instructed by Dr. Geoffrey Power (60-65 students) 

Video Index: Jump directly to the following subjects:  

HHNS Human Anatomy lab Introduction: James Turgeon and Ian Scagnetti

Technical infrastructure

Creating a virtual lab environment for students

Demonstration: Remote live lab environment

Positives with remote learning

Challenges with remote learning

What we are taking forward

Outreach to high schools

Integrative Biology (IB)

Biology and Zoology Courses 

Labs in Integrative Biology support students as they explore different natural environments, habitats, and ecosystems as well as a variety of animals and their bodies and tissues. The priority when teaching these labs has changed in recent years, moving away from memorizing content to facilitating students through the development of essential transferable skills, such as problem solving, collaboration and critical thinking. Sheri Hincks, a lab instructor for ZOO*2700 (Invertebrate Morphology and Evolution) and BIOL*4350 (Limnology of Natural and Polluted Waters) commented, “we teach students to be curious, to ask questions, and give them resources to problem solve.” 

Many majors in Integrative Biology and across the College of Biological Science include a lab component as part of the course learning experience. To support these labs, the department has eight lab instructors who facilitate/teach an array of labs.  

Lab Instructors – Dr. Shaylah Tuttle-Raycraft, Dr. Sarah Schorno, Dr. Tim Bartley, Dori McCombe, Emily Martin, Carole Ann Lacroix, Colin DeMill, and Sheri Hincks.  

Colin DeMill and Sheri Hincks intro

Colin DeMill Introduction

What translates from remote back to in-person labs

Technical infrastructure

Sheri Hincks: Course intoduction

How to continue hands-on and field trips during remote

Accessibility and safety

Mental wellness

Bio4350 Limnology of natural and polluted waters

Remote lab activities for Limnology

Student feedback

Zoo*2700 Invertebrate morphology and evolution

Invertebrate lab kits 

Lessons learned

It takes a village!

Conclustion and Coming Next

In this Spotlight, Colin DeMill and Sheri Hincks shared some of what they did in the labs to support remote learning. Some positive outcomes of remote delivery that will continue:  

  • Bring in guest speakers (the virtual space helped make this possible), including recent graduates who can speak to students and give them a sense of career path options 

  • Get creative! Whether this means making paper models, mapping watersheds, or incorporating digital, remotely accessible slides for at-home review – activities that support application of the material in a fun way or allow students to engage with the material outside of allotted lab times supports their learning.  

  • Move away from high stakes lab exams and instead have a collaborative exercise, low value weekly quizzes, creative projects (like a recipe using cricket powder or creating an invertebrate using structures learned about in the course).  

  • Continue creating weekly videos ahead of the lab – introduce the lab, show the equipment, and include a short quiz to help prepare students.  

  • When possible, allow students to have extra time in the lab (e.g. can be once a week at the same time or multiple times a week for a shorter block of time).  

  • Continue to encourage good mental health and self-care practices, including frequent check-ins about what is going well and what they need help with.  

The Real Deal – The Scoop on Being a Lab Instructor Remotely  

  • “Have fun, be inspired by what students know or are curious to know.”  

  • “Making videos is really fun, and getting better equipment and learning how to edit videos and put them together.”  

  • “Be prepared for things to take longer when teaching a lab remotely, so you have to be willing to either reach out for help or scale back.”  

  • Reach out to resources available, including the library, open ed, and beyond. There are many people on campus who have expertise. Find them and ask LOTS of questions.”  

How Does Remote Rate? The Positives of In-Person Labs 

  • “Some things cannot be replicated in the virtual environment. For instance, watching someone bake a cake on a video, versus making a cake yourself are different experiences. In the same way, working with a microscope in the lab is different than watching an instructor do it on video.”  


ABLE (Association for Biology Lab Educators)  

University Affairs article- Bringing Hand on Learning to the Virtual classroom  

Leaf Pack Network  Welcome to the Leaf Pack Network - Leaf Pack Network  

Getting Nerdy with Mel and Gerdy 

We want to recognize, be inspired by, and share what is happening in CBS, in the following areas:  

  • Student motivation and engagement 

  • Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CURES) 

  • Accessibility 

  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion 

  • Indigenizing the curriculum 

  • High Impact teaching and experiential learning 

  • Assessment Methods 

  • Remote & Hybrid 

  • Practical + Hands-on learning 

  • Strategies for large classes 

  • Resources being used (e.g. e-text books, videos, software programs) 

  • New and Innovative 

Please email Jessi Nelson if you want to be included in a future spotlight.  

Author Biography  

Jessi Nelson (they/she) is a Master’s student in Integrative Biology. They love research related to teaching and learning in higher education, making education equitable, inclusive, and accessible, and marine and freshwater biology. Jessi is a white gender fluid non-male, and recognizes the privilege they have. They see this communications work as an opportunity to shine a light on the voices of others and the dedication those individuals put into educating students and how invaluable those efforts are for the higher education community. Jessi is a mom of two curious and energetic kids, enjoys reading, dancing, playing piano, gardening, and the outdoors. Jessi currently lives, works, and resides in Ontario on the traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinabewaki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ, Attiwonderonk, and Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations. Jessi recognizes the journey towards healing with Indigenous communities is ongoing and must be done by everyone through repeated actions. By reading, listening to, and learning from indigenous people and communities, we can open our minds. If you aren’t sure where to start: 94 Calls to Action by the TRC and are good spots. Together, we can all play a role in creating meaningful change in our communities!