Faculty | Research | Response Magazine

Teaching cell biology online

Illustration by Tommy Parker

WHEN THE COVID-19 pandemic abruptly shut down in-person classes in the spring of 2020, professors scrambled to come up with new ways to effectively teach courses online in what was termed “pandemic pedagogy.”

It was an even greater challenge for Associate Professor of Biology Tracie Delgado, who taught a cell biology lab required for all students pursuing a bachelor of science degree in biology, physiology, or cellular and molecular biology. In the 10-week course, students traditionally learned about cell structure and organization using light, florescence, and electron microscopy. The hands-on weekly labs taught students about tissue culture methods and cell signaling using western blot analysis.

Now, Delgado needed to create her own labs and come up with virtual lab protocols to teach cellular and molecular biology techniques remotely. She  extensively researched online options and ended up employing an array of virtual teaching tools.

Students learned to use DNA sequencing chromatograph software and flow cytometry imaging software. Delgado created a lab worksheet to teach students
how to calculate live and dead cell numbers using a hemocytometer and how to perform calculations to determine how to seed cells for experiments.

Delgado and her senior undergraduate teaching assistants, Shun-Je Bhark and Joshua Donahue, used Zoom, Canvas, and Labster to conduct eight synchronous
virtual lab experiences for SPU’s cell biology students.

An account of Delgado’s pioneering work, “Pandemic Teaching: Creating and Teaching Cell Biology Labs Online During COVID-19,” was recently published in the journal Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education.

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