Science Labs Delivered to Your Door
By David Brashinger
Faculty Member, Natural Sciences at American Public University
How do you take a laboratory-based science course when you don’t have access to a traditional campus-based laboratory? Have the laboratory delivered to your door!
American Public University (APU) is rolling out a series of new online courses in biology, chemistry, and physics that include laboratory activities that students perform where they live. This approach combines the flexibility of distance education with the hands-on learning goals of science laboratory education.
Human Anatomy & Physiology (A&P) I (BIOL250) and II (BIOL251) are two new natural sciences courses starting at APU this summer. They replace a two-course sequence of introductory A&P and pathophysiology in the sports and health sciences undergraduate degree program. The two new courses were designed to meet the needs of any student requiring eight credit hours of A&P with a lab for admissions to nursing, allied health, or professional healthcare programs.
The BIOL250 and BIOL251 classes were designed to recreate the campus-based A&P experience entirely through distance learning. The courses are based on the learning outcomes of the Human Anatomy & Physiology Society (HAPS) and use a textbook that matches those learning goals.
Digital content from McGraw-Hill Connect® provides learning exercises that help students identify and focus their study time on knowledge areas that need additional practice. Anatomy & Physiology Revealed® provides additional instructional content and a digital cadaver to support learning in both the lecture and lab portions of the courses. The text and digital materials are provided to all students under the APU book grant.
The centerpiece of the laboratory experience is the custom kit for each course available from eScience Labs. Students purchase the lab kit online through the university bookstore. Kits can be shipped worldwide to support deployed students at the university and those living abroad.
Each kit includes all of the materials needed to complete each experiment and requires only room-temperature storage. The kits were specifically configured for APU to minimize cost and duplication of materials while maintaining the learning goals for the laboratory experience.
Safety is a critical issue for any laboratory activity. Some experiments require the use of glass test tubes or sharp instruments. Each kit includes a safety equipment box containing protective eyewear, gloves, and an apron. In order to reinforce the importance of safety, the first assignment in BIOL250 requires students to create and submit a video demonstrating the proper attire and safety equipment for performing a lab activity, a video tour of their workspace, and an explanation of why their selected space is appropriate for lab activity. Students are required to comply with all of the safety instructions provided in the lab manual by eScience Labs.
Similar to an on-campus laboratory course, students in A&P I demonstrate basic chemistry principles, identify the bones and muscles of the body, and dissect a preserved sheep brain and cow eye. In A&P II, students perform blood typing and urinalysis, demonstrate the principles of metabolism, and dissect a preserved fetal pig, sheep heart, and sheep kidney. Students demonstrate their knowledge through the submission of both written and video lab reports throughout each course. These reports are not only important for grading purposes, but also allow the student to record and demonstrate their work to future academic programs or employers.
Anatomy and physiology is a challenging subject in any learning format. Students are expected to learn the language of science while simultaneously using that terminology in understanding the structure and function of the human body. In order to maximize the success of our students, BIOL250 and 251 are only offered in a 16-week format. Unlike other institutions, APU requires students to complete college algebra and a chemistry course (either introductory or General Chemistry I) prior to taking BIOL250.
Many new A&P students struggle with the principles of chemistry and cell biology that form the foundation of A&P. An introductory chemistry course helps students develop a foundation in chemistry before applying it to the study of physiology. A&P is the foundation for most healthcare careers, and BIOL250 provides an introduction to the use of math and chemistry in common calculations, unit conversions, and drug calculations used in healthcare.
The use of laboratory kits allows APU to provide quality online education to students who need a hands-on laboratory experience in preparation for future careers in healthcare. These new courses support our students in reaching their educational goals that otherwise might have been limited because of their location or schedule. Start scoping out a workspace and get ready for anatomy and physiology at home!
About the Author
Dave Brashinger is an anatomy & physiology instructor and course designer in the Natural Sciences program at American Public University. He is a certified paramedic and former NASA human spaceflight operations specialist in space medicine, life support, and the U.S. spacesuit.