New paper on teaching a physics lab course in times of COVID

News - 09 October 2020 - Communication ImPhys

Freek Pols is co-author of a paper on teaching a physics lab course in times of COVID by Forrest Bradbury (AUC), Freek is involved in this Comenius project as an expert on physics lab courses and has contributed in designing this Pandemic resilient lab course.

With the help of Freek, Forrest wrote down his experience to help other teachers teach an off campus lab course.


Without any major changes, a pilot version of a physical science lab course was able to continue when the COVID-19 crisis necessitated the abrupt suspension of on-campus education. The ‘Maker Lab’ course, in which students conceive and set up their own experiments using affordable microcontrollers, required students to follow the entire arc of the empirical research cycle twice. Pedagogical literature on teaching the process of experimental research and the scientific method motivate use of these open-inquiry assignments. Further, the flipped classroom approach was used, where contact time is devoted to discussions and the students’ actual experiments were carried out independently at home or elsewhere without the supervision of an instructor. Despite the COVID19 measures, all students were able to produce interesting and successful research projects. While there were of course difficulties encountered in the abrupt transition to online teaching, we found several counterbalancing advantages that bear consideration for including the instructional method even when all teaching activities can return to campus. We believe that three components in the design of the course were vital to the resilience of the course: the choice for fully open-inquiry projects, the decision to use Arduinos as measurement tools, and the flipped aspect of the instruction methods. We also include considerations for adapting these pandemic-resilient methods in other courses and programs.

The whole paper can be read here.