Biology Faculty Make Amazingly Rapid and Successful Transition to Online-Instruction

With approximately 10 days’ notice, the Department of Biology’s faculty, graduate teaching assistants and instructional staff were able to transition all of our courses to an on-line format so the 5,700 students enrolled in our courses can finish the semester and remain on track for timely graduation. Moving the laboratory sections on-line was a particular challenge, but even the largest laboratory courses, introductory biology, microbiology, and the human anatomy & physiology courses, managed to pull off this truly amazing switch. All essential functions, including undergraduate advising, have also successfully moved to providing services on-line.

Analysis of the first week of classes after spring break indicates that students have adjusted well. More than 2,100 students received online instruction in the introductory biology courses. Lectures were given at their regularly scheduled times using Zoom. Student attendance for these lectures was >86%. Synchronous lab attendance was 95% and online homework completion was >93%. Several exams were also successfully delivered online, and student performance was at or above past levels.

Online labs for the microbiology courses and the anatomy and physiology courses were also conducted, with >95% of the students completing the assignments. Online make-up exams were given using eCampus.

Our undergraduate advisors helped nearly 200 students in the first week of the transition, including some from outside the Biology Department. Most students chose to contact their advisors through email, but telephone calls and zoom meetings were also used. Our advisors also assisted staff and faculty across campus with transfer approvals, course substitutions, course scheduling, and degree planning.

Tom McKnight, head of the department said, “I am deeply grateful for the heroic efforts our faculty, staff, and teaching assistants have made to switch to on-line instruction on short notice so our students can finish their courses. I also appreciate the patience and understanding of our students, because they are affected just as much as we are.”

The Department of Biology will offer its full summer course schedule. All of those courses will be on-line, as well.