Office for Students Report

Gravity assist cover

#DryLabsRealScience was featured in the new OfS publication Gravity assist: propelling higher education towards a brighter future (opens in new tab).

“In practice-based subjects we also heard that some providers have been surprised by the amount that could be delivered in a digital environment, particularly where this relates to theory, which can then be followed by in-person practical sessions. For example, a short instructional video that demonstrates a particular lab technique can be watched by students asynchronously ahead of time. When students do enter the lab, they already have an understanding of the technique and can use lab time more effectively. The #DryLabsRealScience case study highlights how networks have facilitated innovative solutions and found benefits to delivering remotely in relation to life sciences.”

“Case study: #DryLabsRealScience

Dr Nigel Francis (Swansea University), Professor Ian Turner (University of Derby) and Dr David Smith (Sheffield Hallam University) set up #DryLabsRealScience. The network was established to share best practices, experiences and ideas to support remote learning in the life sciences.
Members of the network have been exposed to a wide range of novel teaching tools and pedagogic approaches to support lab-based delivery and research projects. By creating and sharing videos and how-to guides, the network supports the life science community to address the challenges of delivering effective lab experiences remotely. Showcasing alternative capstone research projects provides opportunities for students undertaking non-lab research projects and highlights how they can acquire a range of graduate skills. These resources provide powerful learning opportunities that will live on beyond the pandemic and have been showcased by Advance HE, The Biologist and Laboratory News.

Networks can solve complex problems. The challenges of remote lab provision raised by the pandemic were too large for individual institutions to solve. Working together through the network, practitioners were able to offer and share solutions and collectively learn lessons from personal experiences, creating a supportive and collaborative community of practice.

Focusing on learning leads to effective delivery. The pandemic has forced the sector to rethink the delivery of lab-based teaching and to identify the core aspects of practical learning, asking what the fundamental requirements are during a university degree programme. Those elements that can only be delivered in the physical laboratory, such as psychomotor skills to manipulate physical objects, were prioritised for in-person delivery. Those elements that can be effectively simulated or delivered virtually – for example, gaining familiarity with procedures, experimental design and data generation and analysis – have been shown to be equally, if not more, effectively delivered remotely.”