As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual learning has necessarily become an integral part of the day-to-day life of students, faculty, and staff at the University of Waterloo. One of the challenges often associated with online learning is creating active engagements between students and instructors, especially with hands on learning opportunities such as with labs.
In an effort to address the challenges commonly faced with online learning, Faculty of Science instructors are developing projects aimed at enhancing online learning for graduate and undergraduate students. Recently, the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) announced a $50 million investment in virtual learning, with $88,823 going towards Waterloo Science projects.
Two of the 19 funded programs at Waterloo were awarded to Faculty of Science researchers: Professor Kim Cuddington of Biology and Dr. Leanne Racicot of Chemistry.
Leanne Racicot, laboratory instructor in the Department of Chemistry, is developing a simple laboratory simulation tool to help teach students principles of liquid-liquid extraction and how to use this method to separate organic compounds. This project was inspired by feedback from her students last fall where they expressed that they were struggling to integrate their course knowledge into the lab after it moved online. Leanne wanted to integrate lab simulations in her organic chemistry lab to help students apply their knowledge but was not satisfied with the options currently available. Working together with Marie Lippens at the Centre for Extended Learning (CEL), they put together an application to fund a project to fill this gap in her labs.
“The goal is not to replace in-person labs, but to augment the experience of students whether learning remotely or on-campus,” says Leanne. “I am hoping it will bring back some fun and interactivity into remote labs!”
Leanne’s simulation tool will combine realistic images and videos from the on-campus laboratory, along with some visuals showing what is happening at the molecular scale during each step of the reaction. Students will be actively engaged in the simulation to make procedure design choices by choosing reagents to use. This project will be done in collaboration with at Western University and the University of Ottawa.
Read more in today's news item by the Faculty of Science.