Currently, many academic institutions are using one or more variations of online modalities due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and science educators face a unique challenge with distance-learning laboratories. In the Spring of 2020, we have developed and implemented the online General Biology lab exercises to boost online student engagement. We published these exercises as an Open Educational Resource (OER) online laboratory manual under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License: (https://creativecommons.org/licenses).
It was important to us that this lab manual be provided as an open educational resource. In the 2018 New York State Open Educational Resources (OER) City University of New York (CUNY) report, a Kingsborough Community College student was quoted, “I can work as many jobs as I can but [the high cost of textbooks] is still going to affect me. If I’m able to pay the tuition, I won’t pay for the textbooks. If I pay for the textbooks, I won’t have enough money for tuition.” Access to a textbook impacts student engagement, performance, and retention at 2-year and 4-year institutions. Many students who cannot afford the lab manual and would previously use a classmate’s manual to follow the laboratory exercises no longer have that option due to the pandemic. We decided to write an OER laboratory manual that could be used in asynchronous or synchronous courses. We published the manual under the Creative Commons License Agreement Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License: (https://creativecommons.org/licenses), and it is accessible via Manifold CUNY (https://cuny.manifoldapp.org/projects/general-biology-oer-laboratory-manual), and at CUNY Academic Works (https://academicworks.cuny.edu/). Based on students’ feedback and overall performance, we saw increased online student engagement, participation, and overall pleasant experience in the General Biology lab. Click on the cover image below to view the lab manual, or click here to download the PDF version of the lab manual