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Effective online activities for STEM labs

In our second meeting for Spring 2020 on May 12, faculty shared online activities they had used and found effective for lab. The list discussed appears below, and these (and others) were added to an online repository accessible to all STEM colleagues (for the moment, only KCC BIO Dept faculty have participated). This is the link, and all materials posted are freely available for anyone to use:


  1. A website on life cycles/meiosis/sporophytes. You can click on an item in the figure on a life cycle and see if you are correct.  It scores the user.  She also showed an app and demonstrated how it can be used interactively with plant phylogeny and plant evolution.
  2.  virtualbiologylab.org. You can create a series of islands that you can manipulate with reptiles, mammals, etc.  You can find equilibrium and can change/manipulate parameters and generate a bar graph to see changes.
  3.  iNaturalist.org/login. This is like having a dichotomous key.  You can use it to see world distribution of organisms, biodiversity and searches.
  4. Apps such as LeafSnap where you can take a photo of a leaf and the app identifies the plant/tree it is from.
  5. A website for microbiology students to measure zones of inhibition. It is: learn.chm.msu.edu/vibl/content/antimicrobial.html
  6. Many general biology virtual labs (see Dropbox repository).
  7. ELISA virtual lab
  8. Virtual Immunology Lab from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

The group also discussed the following challenges in online classes:

  • Do students show their face during interactive sessions? Most responded, “No”. Discussion took place regarding why this is, and on options.
    • The book, Small Teaching Online, by Flowers has lots of tips for connecting with students. This book is the subject of another KCTL faculty interest group for Spring 2020.
  • Cheating, and how to prevent it online, was discussed by the group, e.g. timed exams, question pools that give each student a random selection of similar questions, randomized questions and randomized answer choices, limited time period for exam availability.

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