Labs, Studios and Other Non-Classroom Spaces Best Practices

Berkeley has a variety of approved educational formats that make use of specialized non-classroom spaces: most commonly laboratory and studio sections. Clinic and fieldwork sections may experience similar difficulties with spaces on and off campus.

In some cases, alternative pedagogies may be competitive with existing pedagogies, and there may be advantages to using a blend of pedagogies. This is not always true. It is important to recognize that faculty have already made informed pedagogical choices in the design of their courses. The options below are meant to minimize disruption of learning when circumstances make your chosen pedagogy impossible.

Analyzing Data

Sections may generate data and observations required to complete a report or homework. In the College of Engineering, students who are able to complete a lab can share data and observations with students who could not, so that those students can participate in at least the analysis and complete their assignments.

If no sections are able to meet to make the requisite observations, it is also possible to use data generated during a previous semester. In preparation for disruptions, the College of Chemistry has begun building repositories of data from past iterations of courses. Analysis of data from the literature is also an option.

One type of question you may want to ask students involves providing them with a random sequence of steps involved in the experimental methodology, and asking them to put them in the correct logical order. This requires students to critically understand why each step has to come before the next in a protocol. You can also provide students with a blank step, which they would need to fill in for themselves once they identify what step is missing. An example of such a question from LabXchange can be found here (click on "Design" on the right-hand side).” - Martin Samuels, Harvard

Alternatively, students can be assigned an alternative reading or viewing, then grouped together with students that have completed the intended exercise. bCourses can form student groups automatically, allow students to arrange themselves into groups, or you can choose to form the student groups manually. Through a bcourses discussion, a G Suite Hangout/shared Google doc, or a Zoom breakout room, these groups can be challenged to consider their observations in light of the reading. These tools are used widely on campus in a variety of ways.

Likewise, if students are expected to provide analysis of or feedback to a cancelled live performance, a filmed version of that piece - or another piece about which similar observations can be drawn - could stand in its stead.

In your course, there may be good reasons why these options would be unmanageable, and you may decide that some assignments are best cancelled, changed to ungraded, or simplified.

Learning Techniques/Hands-on Experiences

Many virtual labs - ChemCollective (Chemistry), MERLOT (Science), PhET (simulation), and LabXchange (molecular biology) to name a few - are available that can substitute for the physical performance of an experiment (a list of additional online labs, simulations, and resources can be found here). Online museum collections (Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Harvard Digital Collections) can be examined in lieu of interaction with physical artefacts. How well these virtual experiences model professional practice will vary, depending on your discipline and course, but you may find an option that works well for you.

The College of Chemistry is creating virtual labs, where a GSI carries out the steps of the lab in sequence while another GSI films. These clips are interspersed into a protocol similar to the one that they would follow if they were performing the lab themselves. The Journal of Visualized Experiments has thousands of videos of experimental protocols available that may be useful as well.

Worksheet activities can be developed that explore some of the concepts in a laboratory that cannot be performed. Although not a substitute for actual lab work, this type of worksheet can help students develop a conceptual understanding that can support doing similar lab work in the future.

Students in the Journalism School routinely use portable equipment and laptops for editing for remote reporting, which can be relied on when the on-campus editing bays are not available. To coordinate remote faculty and peer feedback on video editing, they use a tool called, which allows for collaborative commentary on a cut. Likewise, the College of Environmental Design uses Conceptboard to give students and faculty a virtual whiteboard to collaborate on.

Performances and rehearsals that require a stage are difficult to fully replicate, but various types of practice can be encouraged at home. Remote peer feedback can be carried out using the grouping strategies mentioned above, along with available recording devices (e.g. laptops and cellular phones). In Physical Education, a certain amount of conditioning and training can be completed at home with the assistance of video instruction.