By Kristy Kemp, Science Instructor, Kirtland Community College
Kirtland Community College’s district is the largest in Michigan, totaling 2,500 square miles and consisting of all or part of nine counties. Our main campus is located close to the geographic center of the college’s district in rural Northern Michigan, but we have two extension campuses in our northwest (Kirtland-Gaylord) and southeast (Kirtland-West Branch) regions. Until recently, students attending those extension campuses for programs requiring a science course with a lab only had two choices: enroll in our completely online science course or drive great distances to main campus for a face-to-face science course. Many of those students were experienced and comfortable taking online courses, but there was still a population of students scared or uncomfortable with taking an online science course. The extension campuses were not equipped with a science laboratory room or supplies; so to meet the needs of our students and expand our science department to those extension campuses, we began to offer hybrid science courses in those locations. We had already been very satisfied using Hands-On Labs LabPaqs for our online science courses, so the natural step in this expansion process was to use the LabPaqs for our hybrid science courses. Our hybrid classes would meet for lecture at our satellite campuses but do their labs at home using LabPaqs much like our online courses, and students were satisfied with meeting their science requirement in this manner. It relieved their stress of taking a completely online science course and prevented them from having to travel to main campus.
Between the Fall 2012 and Winter 2013 semesters, a science laboratory was installed in our Kirtland-Gaylord campus; however, chemistry supplies and equipment were not stocked in the new facility to start the semester. My Chemistry for Health Sciences course was offered as a hybrid with a plan to reverse my course strategy. At the students’ requests and to meet their needs, we are using our time in class to work in groups completing the labs using LabPaqs, and the “lecture” part of the course is done online in our learning management system, Canvas. According to Jennifer, “I like doing [labs] in the classroom. I feel it gives a good discussion time and better learning experience.” The idea is students will learn and study concepts at home to prepare for our in-class session working on labs so they can better discuss and engage while working together to complete the hands-on activities. Paulette comments, “Personally I really enjoy doing [labs] as a team. [We] work well together and actually as we think out loud trying to figure out what the heck we are supposed to be doing, we figure it out just fine!!! I know I could do this at home on my own but it would probably take me longer without feedback from my team.”
As the instructor, I have really enjoyed flipping the lecture and lab method. Hearing the reactions of students and discussion of the lab groups during the student-led collaborative adventures in lab that lead to class-wide success has been extremely rewarding. I believe that flipping my hybrid classroom by using labpaqs for the face-to-face time rather than labs at home has allowed my students to better develop their critical thinking skills, experience the learning of key concepts, and benefit greatly from actively working with each other. Jeremy adds, “Not everybody thinks alike, so I feel that doing labpaqs with a group is a positive attribute instead of going solo. It gives another perspective on how to figure out a problem and a different way of viewing a situation. Another member of the group may see a pattern where one may miss it doing the lab alone.” Even though I reversed the use of labpaqs to meet the needs and requests from students rather than purposely do it to enhance the learning experience for students, the advantages have been numerous and the experience has been overwhelmingly positive.