It's Not Rocket Science!

Blog Post created by ml21582 on May 18, 2018

It's Not Rocket Science!


While I was attending It's Not Rocket Science: Developing Quality Online Science Laboratory Courses at MiBUG (Michigan Blackboard Users Group)'s Spring 2018 Conference, I took down these notes.

*Session Presenters: Nick Butkevich, Professor of Biology & Jason Kane, Instructional Designer at Schoolcraft College


Phases for creating online wet-lab courses:

  1. Department
    • Get the department on board, for example, Biology
    • Suggest creating a new course for non-lab majors, for example
  2. Institution
    • Make sure there is a need - market analysis
    • Ensure that the course will transfer!
    • Work with the curriculum committee
    • Develop clear grading rationale
  3. Materials
    • Investigate - homemade or commercial?
    • What is the liability? Shipping and Disposal
      • With a commercial kit, there is a blanket liability clause
      • It is a good idea to present safety information and create an institution-specific process and policy around liability
    • Review kits
      • Cost - depends on the experiments that you use and what the students will have to pay
      • If there are virtual labs that would work for some students you could combine virtual labs and simulations with lab kits
    • Ordering and Delivery options
    • What is the storage and shelf-life of the kit?
    • Service - returns and updates of current vendors - what happens if you have broken kits, kits missing pieces, etc...
  4. Build (the design phase)
    • Welcome & Orientation
    • Safety Module
      • Work with risk management people
      • Liability forms required from students before they even have access to the course:
        • 1 institution specific form
        • 1 vendor specific form
      • Require a safety quiz where students must earn 100%
      • Require students to take pictures with their phone and submit them to prove they have completed labs, etc.
        • In addition to just requiring the pictures, require students to include in each picture a notecard with their name, date, etc.
    • Lecture Component - developed in-house at Schoolcraft College using a consistent format
      • Introduction & Objectives
      • Learning Activities
      • Practice Exercises
      • Content Assessments (varied)
      • By creating all components in-house you can ensure accessibility!
    • Lab Component
      • Pre-lab videos were created in-house for students
      • Lab manual (from vendor)
      • Laboratory Experiment
      • Lab Report (customized, with image placeholders)
        • Carolina (the vendor that Schoolcraft College is currently using) allows you to customize lab reports
  5. Approval
    • The department reviews the course first, this helps to ensure that the subject matter experts have scrutinized the content and course objectives
      • Build the course in Blackboard (a template)
    • Online Instruction Committee (OIC) Readers go through the course built in Blackboard, faculty, administrators, staff who are all trained in Quality Matters to provide feedback
    • A Ready-to-Teach (RTT) course is created!
  6. Launch
    • Communicate with advising and registration to educate those front-line people
    • Marketing of the course (consider creating a video like they did at Schoolcraft)
    • Offer the course!

Analyze Results


BIOL 100 and CHEM 104 are now both available online at Schoolcraft College. Biology is more popular than chemistry with the students that are taking these online courses at Schoolcraft, so there are more sections offered of BIOL 100 compared with CHEM 104.


Other analytics:

  • Withdraw Rate is down 15% compared with 17%
  • Success Rates are in line with other courses at Schoolcraft


This dynamic duo knows their stuff when it comes to the process of successfully developing, offering and teaching online science lab courses. If you want to know more, I highly recommend reaching out to Nick and Jason.