Medical Education Online
Universities are facing increased budget constraints, often resulting in reduced funds to support microbiology laboratories. Online mock laboratory activities are often instituted as a cost-effective alternative to traditional wet labs for medical students.
The purpose of this study was to examine students' perceptions of online and in-person microbiology lab learning experiences.
We investigated undergraduate medical student perception of the in-person and online microbiology lab experience; 164 first-year medical students participated in newly designed online labs, while 83 second-year medical students continued to use in-person labs. An online survey was administered to collect student opinions of the lab experience.
In terms of student self-reported learning styles, those students who attended the lab in person were more likely to report a tactile learning style (33% vs 16%) while those students who learned the material online reported a visual learning style preference (77% vs 61%; n = 264). Students felt that the online microbiology lab was more convenient for their schedules when compared to the in-person lab. A greater proportion of online students (12%) felt that they encountered brand-new material on the final quiz than in-person students (1%; n = 245). Even so, 43% of the online educated students and 37% of the in-person educated students perceived their assigned lab experiences to be the optimal lab design, and over 89% of both groups reported a desire for at least some in-person instruction in a wet-laboratory environment.
Our findings suggest that, while students are strongly supportive of digital online lab activities, the overwhelming majority of students still report a desire for a blend of online and in-person, hands-on laboratory activities. These findings will further research directed towards student perception of the lab experience and aid in the adaptation of microbiology curriculums to accommodate both student and university needs.
medical microbiology, medical education, laboratory, online, in-person, undergraduate medical student
Brockman RM, Taylor JM, Segars L, Selke V, Taylor TA. Student Perceptions of Online and In-Person Microbiology Laboratory Experiences in Undergraduate Medical Education. Medical Education Online. 2020; 25(1). doi: 10.1080/10872981.2019.1710324.