The challenges of STEM & Art online

Photo by Matthew Feldman

Not all classes will be able to transfer to an online form as easily as others. In particular, classes relating to the arts and STEM labs are encountering the challenges of converting a very tactile learning environment to a remote one. Both professors and students alike are struggling with how to transition to online classes. According to the department chairs of the respective departments, all lab and art classes will continue online and will still give full credit. 

Greta Binford, the biology department chair, sees the six lab classes currently in progress as still being able to continue albeit with an altered curriculum. The lab classes have already collected plenty of data that can now be analyzed online. Binford also indicated that any lapses in data gathering can be supplemented by previously collected data. 

“For most of our lab classes the students have worked hard in the first part of the semester to build the conceptual understanding needed to ask and answer questions within the realm of the topics of the class,” Binford said via email. “So now most of us are transitioning to students working on data analysis and interpretation. Our curriculum deeply emphasizes the scientific process and there are many ways for students to actively engage in that process without the hands on aspect of collecting their own data.”

Tallie Steiner ’20, a biology major says that the shift to online classes has “drastically” affected labs. 

“Most labs are canceled and bio usually has semester-long projects which now will have to be cut short,” said Steiner via email. “For example, in plant bio we have had to end our greenhouse projects and take final measurements on all of the plants we had been growing for our study.”

Anne Bentley, chair of the chemistry department, indicated that the department is also working hard to transition labs to an online format while maintaining the curriculum of the classes. 

“The chemistry department faculty are working to continue to conduct the lab portion of our courses in an online format while still meeting the learning goals for the labs,” Bentley said via email. “The exact plans differ by course. We have received notification from the American Chemical Society that our use of virtual labs for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester will not pose any risk to our status as an ACS-approved chemistry department.”

Matthew Johnston, art department chair, also indicated that art classes will continue online and that art professors are currently in the process of managing the switch from in-person to online classes.

“I suppose the main thing is that the switch to online instruction was unexpected and faculty have differing levels of familiarity with the various options that are available,” Johnston said via email. “The studio art faculty are developing assignments that students can work on independently.”

Across the board, faculty are working on the transition to online classes but still expect to be able to teach, even in cases where classes were traditionally very hands-on.

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