Professor gets creative with online lab classes


Khánh Nguyễn

Online classes are a common class choice during summer.

Before COVID-19, many classes were taught online. However, the amount of classes taught online started to increase due to the pandemic. When a college student thinks about taking a class online they are probably thinking about taking english, history, or even math. However, what may not come to mind is taking an online lab class. 

Lab classes are usually a hands-on class due to the amount of experiments that are done. However, WSU professor Fawn Beckman is willing to take on the challenge of teaching the human organism lab class online.

Beckman has taught human organism and microbiology at WSU for 15 years. This class was taught online before the pandemic hit but has been utilized more during the pandemic.

Beckman originally started teaching microbiology first. She then started teaching human organisms. Beckman feels like the human organism lab class is a great class for non-science majors to take because they get to learn about themselves. 

 “I think it’s very important for non-science majors to kind of get a taste of science and learn what it’s all about,” Beckman said. “The human body is the most interesting to those people because it’s going to be about them.”

Online lab classes used to consist of a more simulation based program. Beckman was determined to give her students a less computerized experience.

For the lab, Beckman mails each student a lab kit. The lab kit contains all the materials needed for each lab throughout the duration of the class. She said the goals of the lab kit were to make sure it was affordable for students and safe to use at home. 

“It was quite a challenge at first because I wanted to make sure the students had some kind of meaningful experience,” Beckman said. “I wanted to make sure that was not my lab. I think it’s actually kind of an advantage for the student to kind of have to learn more on how to do these things because that’s really what science is, is trying to figure things out.” 

College classes are known for using Zoom for lectures. However, Beckman decided to stray away from that. She said giving students instructions and materials beforehand has worked out a lot better. 

Beckman said that teaching her lab class online can be used as a selling point for WSU due to how many students it can reach, and the amount of hands-on participation the students get. 

“I have had a lot of students that are not from Wichita,” Beckman said. “I’ve had students from coast to coast. It’s a nice selling point for WSU to be able to have this lab and for it to be hands-on.”