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Temporary Online Teaching and Learning Guide: Fieldwork, Group Work, and Lab Classes

Fieldwork, Group Work, and Lab Classes

When JMU students are placed in off-campus settings for experiences that complement their academic program, they are ambassadors of the university and guests in these settings. It is very important that course attendance policies clearly state that students should NOT GO to field or clinical settings if they are not feeling well. They should not risk possibly transmitting an illness from JMU students to practitioners or clients in these settings. Students who are unable to meet their off-campus field or clinical responsibilities should immediately call their off-campus supervisor as well as their JMU instructor. 
In the event that JMU students are healthy and enrolled in field-based courses in areas not impacted by a possible pandemic, they may proceed with the course as scheduled at the discretion of the faculty member in consultation with the academic unit head and Dean, or his or her designee. The faculty member is responsible for communicating with the students enrolled in the course.
An effective way to have students work together in groups online is to use the Manage Groups in People menu item in Canvas. Within each group students can exchange files, post to a discussion board, and send email.
Creating and using Groups from the Canvas course site can continue the learning community for your class. 

** Google Hangout can be a good option, too since most students already use them for friends meet up;

** Two other options: WhatsApp and Groupme can connect friends or professionals around the globe. I use this for my professional connections. Both are asynchronous by nature but can allow synchronous functions if all people can meet at the same time. 

With these technology options, the selection of teaching with group work can be determined based on the following factors: 1) synchronous vs. asynchronous (with video or audio expectations or not); 2) production (e.g. sharing files and developing proposals) vs. meeting for communication and connection only; 3) whether there is an assessment component in it. The last but most important, how are students equipped in terms of computer and bandwidth.

WebEx is a Web-based synchronous, collaborative learning environment with real-time, interactive functionality: two-way audio and video, white board and image markup, text-based messaging, application sharing, guided Web site viewing, session recording and archiving. Moderator-participant roles can be easily assigned, promoting students to an active role in building course content and as discussion/session leaders. Create sessions quickly through easily accessible controls integrated into your Canvas course site. (Note: For recordings and video conferencing involving observing clinical sessions, telemedicine activities, discussing patient information, etc., please refer to subject-specific HIPPA guidelines.)
Canvas Conferences:  Text chat, whiteboard
Laboratory learning experiences are designed to help students master a task, observe a phenomenon, dissect or manipulate a specimen, create computer programs, design experiments, or do a variety of other activities to help address course learning objectives. The thought of replacing this real-life experience with an online replacement may not be the best scenario, but under certain circumstances, there are some reasonable replacement options.
On-line simulations. There are a variety of web-based laboratory simulations that allow students to “perform” experiments and collect data. Below is a list of commonly shared open access resources for simulations, video, and images:
- PHET Interactive Simulations by University of Colorado, Boulder: 
- National Science Foundation Multiplex Video Collections: (STEM)
- MyScope by Microscopy Australia: (Geoscience)
- NASA Image and Video Collection: (STEM)
- SimTech Downloadable simulations: (Health Science, Nursing)
chemistry remotely, selected activities, animations, projects, simulations, and videos are unlocked and freely available through March 31 by American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT) at:
JMU Libraries' Open Educational Resources (OER) Guide has a list of more online simulations and interactive resources:
OER Commons has lessons and learning activities on a variety of subjects:
Don’t forget to check YouTube for lab-related videos because there are lots of great educational resources available.

"JoVE’s visual learning resources can help educators and students continue their work without missing a beat." (Moshe Pritsker, Ph.D., JoVE CEO and Co-founder, March 12, 2020). The offer includes free access to the following resources:

·       JoVE Core – a video textbook that isolates and visually presents core concepts in Biology and Social Psychology to improve learning comprehension. 

·       JoVE Science Education – a collection of simple, easy-to-understand video demonstrations in eight STEM fields

·       Lab Manual – comprehensive, curriculum focused videos for introductory biology lab courses

     JoVE Coronavirus Free Access Resource Center

If data analysis is the most important component of the lab experience, you could provide students with a data set to analyze. Below is a list of some sample dataset sites:
- ChemDB Chemoinfomatics Portal (University of California, Ivine):
Chemistry and Chemical & Biological Engineering Datasets (University of Alabama):
You could even create multiple versions of the data set so that each student can write a unique lab report or assignment. Heads up – the best place to collect data sets is your students. Start archiving results from labs so that you can be prepared if labs are canceled.

Set up a “make up” day in your syllabus.  Many JMU lab courses already do this, but if your class doesn’t, then you can add a make up week or designate an alternative time or location where labs will meet.  And yes, you can have a make-up scheduled for Saturday or Sunday.  You could even do an evening make-up.  Be prepared to be flexible, as some students will have other obligations that prevent them from attending make-up sessions.

If you can’t schedule a make-up, work with the lecture instructor to see if you could do a lab demo during lecture class or use lecture time to help students catch up with the lab work.

If you cannot find a good simulation or data set, then you can still have your students write a paper, make predictions, design experiments, or whatever wonderful idea pops into your head.  The learning objectives of the lab probably extend out from the actual lab experience, so revisit the purpose of the lab activity and use the learning objectives to generate an assignment that students can complete and pass in electronically.  You can even design online quizzes and exams that help you determine whether students achieved the lab objectives.

How might I use WebEx to present procedures, like equation writings, to student online synchronously or through asynchronous recording?

This can be accomplished by a combination of using a smartphone with front and rear camera and invite it to a Webex meeting call from an instructor's WebEx personal meeting room, like this The following steps will help you set up such as meeting:

Step 1 - Download the Cisco WebEx Meetings app from the App Store (iPhones) or the Google Play Store (Android phones).

Step 2 - Open the app on your smartphone and accept the Terms of Service. It should say “Select Site”, enter and sign in with your JMU email and password.  

Step 3 - Create a separate email account that is NOT your JMU email, since you will invite your phone as a projector to your WebEx meeting which is initiated with your JMU email.

Step 4 - Sign in your personal meeting room and start a WebEx meeting, so that you can skip entering all students' emails in a system that is NOT JMU MyMadison or Canvas. 

Then click the “Start” button. This will open the desktop app and prompt you to download WebEx plugins or extensions for Google Chrome or Firefox. You will also need to allow the camera and microphone access for WebEx. (For details instruction, please refer to this visual guide.) 

Then you should see your face in a preview window. From this window click the “Start Meeting” button and activate the camera and microphone on your laptop or desktop computer so that they are not red. You can allow the use of your phone’s microphone and camera if asked, but keep the phone microphone muted.

Step 5 - At this point your phone should be in the desktop/laptop call that you started, but the video feed might be muted. Click on the video camera icon at the bottom of your phone app to activate the camera; note the small “turn around” icon in the upper right of the video popup; set this to the rear/back camera of your phone so that the projection is not triggered by downward screen mute mode. Then click “Start My Video” icon on the phone. This will allow the video to be shared on your main screen of the laptop.

Step 6 - Now your phone should be a participant in the call on your computer; you can place the phone so that pen and paper are visible to its camera. From your desktop/laptop call, you can switch between having your desktop/laptop webcam as the presenter (showing your face or a screen share) and having your phone’s camera be the presenter (showing your writing). Your phone projector will capture your writing process, which will be demonstrated to your students through the separate email account's camera/video feed on your main screen. Refer to the following screenshot from WebEx:

Equation Writing through WebEx     Equation Writing with WebEx

Additional notes - Your students can be presenters in your WebEx meetings, too. Click on the Participant List icon to open a sidebar showing the people in the call. Find the initials of any participant to switch them to be the presenter by selecting the participant and making her/him as Presenter. You should see the WebEx ball show at the participant's name.  

The recordings in MP4 format can be shared on many online platforms such as JMU Canvas. 

Phone setup: And your phone will need an easy-to-find home supply, a slim box with some weight or a stack of books of at least 12" of height so that your writing procedure can be captured clearly. Another weight object is also needed to balance your phone so that it will not drop! (See the following demonstration image-:)

Holding a smartphone for procedural demonstration with WebEx

This part of the guide of using WebEx to synchronously demonstrate procedural writing has been co-developed by Dr. Laura Taalman ( and Dr. Juhong Christie Liu at James Madison University.