Educators at the University of Nottingham were already familiar with our LabSims, having used them to support their undergraduate courses. When labs were forced to close due to the pandemic, teaching staff needed to provide additional support to pharmacy postgraduate research students (PGRs), who were unable to access labs for critical practice and training, and were suffering from a loss of confidence. Dr Anna Maria Piccinini, Assistant Professor and Director of PGR Training in the School of Pharmacy, developed two learning resources using our LabSims to support PGRs in regaining their confidence and preparing them for the lab.
PGRs were losing confidence in their ability to work effectively and safely in the lab
Postgraduate study is a pillar of the University of Nottingham’s vision for delivering world-class research and education. Research skills training and lab practice are integral to doctoral training programmes, normally involving witnessing in-person demonstrations of how to operate specialist equipment and perform techniques.
The impossibility of accessing the University’s facilities for approximately five months during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the reopening of the labs with restrictions, meant that most research training could not be provided in-person. This took a serious toll on the motivation and mental health of PGRs, as many found themselves working from home, changing the focus of their projects and with their self-confidence in lab practice undermined.
LabSims were integrated into two learning resources available to students anywhere
To solve the problem, the School of Pharmacy developed two learning resources - “PGR Biosciences Lab Shots” and “PGR Chemistry Lab Shots” - using LearnSci LabSims. Educators introduced the Lab Shots to the students, explaining their purpose and that students could access them from anywhere, at any time. All pharmaceutical science students, on both taught and research programmes, were able to use the resources.
Visualisations within the LabSims were key to the students regaining their confidence
The Lab Shots were integrated into dedicated Moodle pages and were concise, engaging and easy to follow. Along with reading literature to understand the method and equipment, students were able to use the short, clear, interactive animations to visualise the demonstrations and enhance their knowledge via quick quizzes during the session. This aided their understanding of both theory and practical aspects of the techniques, and gave them the feeling of having done the experiment without actually being in the lab, even once labs began to reopen.
Below are two screenshots of the Biosciences Lab Shots; the first at the time of restricted access to labs and the second illustrating how they have been developed now that labs have re-opened. PGR students can still use the resources to support their training or as refresher and the inclusion of LabSims can clearly be seen in both.
PGRs feel these digital resources have been critical to support their training and lab practice
Students immediately showed interest in the Lab Shots, and the number of activities undertaken in the first months of implementation speak for themselves, proving how valuable students found them.
Over 900 activities were undertaken in the first nine months of implementation
Importantly, usage of the resources did not drop over time, as students chose to continue using them.
Beyond PGRs in the School of Pharmacy, the impact of the Lab Shots has also been recognised elsewhere within the University:
a) the technical team in the School requested to enrol technicians in the training resources; and
b) the Faculty of Science’s Digital Learning Team invited Dr Piccinini to present at the ‘Academic Community of Practice’, where other Schools such as Biosciences expressed interest in also adopting the resources.
Finally, Dr Piccinini applied to LearnSci’s Teaching Innovation Awards for 2021, and we were pleased to award her an Honourable Mention, recognising her outstanding innovative practices in teaching and learning through the introduction of the Lab Shots.
To talk to us about how you could integrate our resources into your learning platform, please contact us. We would be delighted to discuss the possibilities with you.