‘Missing Out on the Hands-On Experience’: Science Labs on Zoom

James Alfaro, Reporter

While the transition into virtual classes through Zoom might be challenging enough, California Lutheran University students enrolled in labs are facing unique barriers to participation. 

“I have found that doing labs online is quite impossible,” junior biology major Sarah Ross said. “Being a biology major, I feel like I am missing out on the hands-on experience.”

Ross is taking three labs including animal behavior, physics and vertebrate physiology. Ross said her labs have primarily shifted into passively viewing the professors as they conduct the lab and using the professors’ data to write reports. 

Junior communications major Alex Steinhauer is enrolled in astronomy this semester and said Assistant Professor of Physics Marie E. Oksala gave the class the option to do their lab assignments on their own or with their lab group via Zoom.

“I find [taking the lab] both easy and hard. The easy thing about it is that the labs are shorter and don’t take as much time… the hard part is that you don’t have assistance from Dr. O in the class if you need help, [instead] you need to email her and wait for a response,” Steinhauer said.

Ross agreed that the lack of communication with professors while performing labs remotely has made courses such as vertebrate physiology especially challenging. 

“This past lab we had online, it took me almost six hours to get the lab software to work on my computer,” Ross said. “[Professor Long] was not helpful in trying to figure out what was wrong and wouldn’t listen to what was going wrong. I had to figure it out myself.”

Steinhauer, however, said he does not mind doing the online labs because they are less demanding in regard to time constraints. Students have the flexibility to take as little or as long as they wish while conducting labs remotely. 

Senior Emily Johnson is a biology major taking molecular biology, as well as the course’s lab, with Professor Rogers. Johnson said the nature of the course hasn’t shifted much in terms of the application of skills.

“We are coding in lab now and using the code to analyze the data we got earlier in the semester,” Johnson said. However, Johnson said the lack of proximity to classmates and her professor has made it challenging to stay focused. “I get distracted easily,” Johnson said.