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Using the Microbiology Virtual Labs in an Online Asynchronous Lab Course

Published February 1, 2022


I began using Virtual Labs when they first came out for my general biology course several years ago at a previous institution. I patiently waited until the microbiology labs were developed and began implementing them in my Spring 2021 course. I had been using them each semester in my fully asynchronous online lab courses. I didn't currently use the adaptive pre-assignments and was only assigned a cumulative post-lab assessment at the end of the semester. This will likely change now that all the Virtual Lab Question Bank are available. Sarah Slatten Sample Syllabus below for Virtual Labs: My Instructional Strategies Virtual Labs – Each week, we will have a series of virtual labs for you to complete. These virtual labs will take you step-by-step through each lab experience just as though you were in person in a lab. Final Exam – At the end of the semester, there will be a formal exam that covers the concepts that you have been engaging in throughout the virtual lab exercises. The exam will be comprised of questions obtained from the Virtual Lab Question Bank in Connect.


My Course Schedule

Week Virtual Labs Start Date (CST) Due Date (CST)
1 Virtual Labs Tutorial (practice)
Lab Safety – Personal Safety (practice)
Lab Safety – Hand Washing Procedure (practice)
Jan 10 @ 8:00 am Jan 17 @ 8:00 am
2 Ubiquity of Microorganisms
Aseptic Technique – Broth Culture to Sterile Agar Plate
Aseptic Technique – Broth Culture to Sterile Broth
Aseptic Technique – Slant Culture to Sterile Agar Slant
Jan 17 @ 8:00 am Jan 24 @ 8:00 am
3 Microscopy – Operation of Brightfield Microscope
Microscopy – Pond Water Wet Mount
Microscopy – Oil Immersion
Jan 24 @ 8:00 am Jan 31 @ 8:00 am
4 Staining – Preparing a Smear from Bacterial Sample
Staining – Gram Staining
Jan 31 @ 8:00 am Feb 7 @ 8:00 am
5 Staining – Spore Staining
Staining – Capsule Staining
Staining – Acid-Fast Staining
Feb 7 @ 8:00 am Feb 14 @ 8:00 am
6 Microbial Growth – Effects of Temperature
Microbial Growth – O2 Req and Thioglycolate Medium
Microbial Growth – O2 Req and Anerobic Jar
Feb 14 @ 8:00 am Feb 21 @8:00 am
7 Bacterial Genetics – Bacterial Transformation
Bacterial Genetics – DNA Profiling
Bacterial Genetics – PCR
Feb 21 @ 8:00 am Feb 28 @ 8:00 am
8 Control of Microbial Growth – Antiseptics & Disinfectants
Control of Microbial Growth – Effect of UV Light
Feb 28 @ 8:00 am Mar 7 @ 8:00 am
9 Control of Microbial Growth – Antimicrobial Sensitivity
Natural Selection – Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria
Mar 7 @ 8:00 am Mar 14 @ 8:00 am
10 Isolation Method – Subculturing of Bacteria
Isolation Methods – Pour Plate Method
Isolation Methods – Streak Plate Method
Mar 21 @ 8:00 am Mar 28 @ 8:00 am
11 Isolation Methods – Quantitative Dilution of Bacteria
Isolation Methods – Optical Density
Isolation Methods – Quantification by Colony Counting
Mar 28 @ 8:00 am Apr 4 @ 8:00 am
12 Unknown Bacterial Identification (select sample 1-10) Apr 4 @ 8:00 am Apr 11 @ 8:00 am
13 Unknown Bacterial Identification (select sample 1-10) Apr 11 @ 8:00 am Apr 18 @ 8:00 am
14 Unknown Bacterial Identification (select sample 1-10) Apr 18 @ 8:00 am Apr 25 @ 8:00 am
15 Unknown Bacterial Identification (select sample 1-10) Apr 25 @ 8:00 am May 2 @ 8:00 am
16 Unknown Bacterial Identification (select sample 1-10) May 2 @ 8:00 am May 9 @ 8:00 am
Finals Lab Final Exam May 9 @ 8:00 am May 16 @ 8:00 am

My Method of Evaluation

Your grade in this course will be based on your earned points out of a total of 500 points.

  Assignment Points  
  Virtual Labs 10 points each simulation  
  Lab Final Exam 170 points  
  Totals 500 points  

My Student Feedback (end of semester evaluations)

"This lab was low stress because the lab would tell you if you were incorrect and wouldn't let you move on until you got it correct." "Engagement of the online labs felt real" "I thought the labs were going to be a little iffy if I would actually learn anything however before the lab pages made it more clear on what I was supposed to do. It also usually worked hand–in–hand with the lecture part and made what I had learned in lecture more clear." "I loved the online labs! They were so helpful in explaining each step and why you were doing each step" "I also appreciated that the labs give you multiple chances so you can actually learn the material and not just give up when you get something wrong."



Suggested Best Practices:

  • If running online and in-person labs simultaneously, have the labs match as closely as possible.
  • If fully online, describe the virtual labs to your students and explain how robust and like "the real thing" they are so that they appreciate the experience.
  • Have a practice lab or two at the beginning, so students get a feel for what they are like.

Click here to get more information on the Virtual Labs for Microbiology!

About the Author

Dr. Sarah Slatten University of North Dakota, Associate Professor, Biomedical Sciences Active Learning, Flipped Classrooms, Problem-based Learning, Girls in STEM, K-12 STEM, Teacher Professional Development