How to Engage Students in Virtual Science Learning: A Teacher's Perspective
LabXchange Teacher in Residence Mary Liu is a science teacher at Weston High School in Weston, Massachusetts. In this article, she shares how she uses LabXchange with her biology and biotechnology students for a hybrid learning experience.
Using LabXchange for Virtual Science Learning
Here’s how I use LabXchange with my students!
I use the classes feature in addition to my school’s learning management system (LMS).
It’s important to know that the classes feature is only available if you have created a LabXchange account. Accounts are completely free, and unlock some added bonuses. For example, you get a dashboard that allows you to create your own content, like video, documents, text, or questions. It also allows you to personalize pathways by adding or removing your own content and customize pathways with notes.
It also allows you to create private classes for up to 300 learners. (You can also share your classes with other educators – for example, co-teachers or colleagues who want to audit your class.) I use the classes feature. At the beginning of the year, I have my students enroll in a class. This way, I can see how they are interacting with content and working through some of the formative assessments on the platform.
Once you create a class, it will appear in the “Classes I Teach” section on your dashboard. For students to join your class, all you have to do is share the 6-digit code under the name of your class. They will need to create accounts as well, but again, it’s a free process. They only have to do this once.
Getting Classes Underway
Once learners request to join your class, you’ll see their profile appear in your Class enrollment requests. You will need to approve learners to join your class. This ensures that your class is private and only includes the individuals you want in your class.
Now, you can post content to your class. Or, you can save it in the wings for whenever you’re ready by adding it to the “Unposted content” section. Content can be posted, or hidden by unposting, at any time.
For classes that need structure or scaffolding, I typically hide or unpost content as we complete them, and then post new content throughout the year. For classes where we might refer back to older content, I leave content available in one running list.
Adding Virtual Learning Content to Your Class
If you want to add content, just scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the “Add content” button. You can search the public library or find content that you’ve added to your private dashboard.
Finally, I like using the toggle in the top right corner to toggle between what I see, as the person leading the course, and “learner view,” which the learners enrolled in my course see. This allows me to double check the content I have shared.
A Free Tool for Tracking Learner Progress
If you want to check in on how your learners are doing, you have a couple of options. One way is through the learner tab. In this area, you can message individual learners. For example, you can start a private conversation if they missed something, or if you noticed that they didn’t complete content. Or you can check a learner’s individual progress, also on the learner tab. You can see how much content they have completed, if they have started content or not, and what percentage of questions they have gotten correct.
If you want to check on your class as a whole, the progress tab allows you to do that. This shows all the students enrolled in your class, and how much of individual assignments, or of all the assignments in the class, they have completed. You can also see what percentage of assessment questions they have gotten correct for each particular piece of content you have assigned. If there are no questions in a piece of content (for example, if it is a text or video asset), the progress indicator will only show completion, including the date of completion. In this section, you can download a report of your class progress, and import it directly into your learning management system.
Strategies for Assessing Content Knowledge
It’s helpful to know that the progress displayed in the Progress section is more of a formative assessment tool. It doesn’t show you which questions students got correct, or what answer options they selected. So, you may want to incorporate other ways to assess learners’ content knowledge.
Here are a few ways I do this. I created pathways that embedded a document or handout that I already used in class, included a video from LabXchange, and finally, created a text asset that includes a link to a Google form. I wanted my students to answer some open response questions to see if they understood the material presented. My students’ answers then came back to my Google account.
You can also use LabXchange pathways as pre-class work or in a flipped classroom. You can then assess understanding in person or virtually through group work, verbal check-ins, or application of the topics learned online.
Whenever you’re working with different assets you have assigned to a class, you can copy the URL for the content or pathway and share it in any other learning management system (LMS) as a way to direct students directly to that content. This way, students can navigate directly to the content through your existing system, but you can also track their progress through LabXchange classes.