Blend the Lab Course, Flip the Responsibility

Blend the Lab Course, Flip the Responsibility

Mark A. Gallo
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4987-3.ch010
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An upper-level special topics course in Applied, Environmental, and Medical Microbiology was offered for the first time. It was decided by the author to offer it as a blended course. There were some compelling reasons to do so: first and foremost, it allowed class time to be spent doing what one should in a lab-intensive course: remark on current state of knowledge and literature, describe experimental design, discuss potential outcomes, troubleshoot technical problems as they arise, and offer suggestions regarding students’ research throughout the process. The ultimate goal and real value of the blended classroom in this instance was elevating the level of student responsibility and forcing them to view a science class as something more than a collection of facts: rather as a very active class, one that requires individual action. It was also designed to allow the students to participate in fundamental scientific research with the help of a mentor in a manner that was/is still practiced and in full view of peer review. The role of the faculty member changes to one of providing guidance instead of content in the classroom, and so it gives one more individual time with the students; this time can be used for diagnostic, formative, and summative assessment.
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The blended classroom provides a means to off-load some of the content of a course to online media and allow more of the classroom to be used for interactive dialog with the learner. This strategy makes logical sense for certain courses, and is especially useful with motivated learners who will responsibly prepare for the face-to-face time. The synchronous and asynchronous interactions each have their strongpoints and when both are used effectively it can have a synergistic effect on the learning.

A challenge for any discipline is how to best transition the beginner in the field, the novice, to a position of mastery. This is particularly true in the sciences where not only is there a large, ever-expanding content base, but there is also the technical knowledge and skills needed to design an experiment as well as a way of approaching the subject, all of which is foreign to the beginner. The mechanics of an upper-level advanced special topics in microbiology operated in a blended fashion are described in this chapter. This was the first time for the faculty member to run the course and it was one of the first courses with an online component for many of the students. Students worked in groups and were responsible for formal experimental write-ups as well as online videos outlining their background information, their methodology and experimental design, their results, and their conclusions. The students worked progressively through a series of experiments, starting with well-defined studies to those that were more exploratory in nature and had a large inquiry-based component. The final projects were in conjunction with a primary investigator and the results of their studies were of high value to the scientific community.

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