Biology 101L Hybrid Labs Pilot

Carol L. Chaffee

CSU Fullerton

Course Name & Description: Biology 101L Elements of Biology Lab

Project Abstract: Biology 101L (BIOL 101L) is general education biology laboratory that fulfills the CSU GE B.3 Laboratory Experience requirement. At CSUF, enrollment limits due to space constraints are a more significant bottleneck than repeatable grades in BIOL 101L. The goal of this project is to pilot the use of hybrid labs to expand the maximum enrollment that can be supported within the current space limitations, so that students will be able to fulfill their GE B.3 graduation requirement without delays.

Keywords/Tags: Hybrid, GE, general biology, lab, inquiry

Instructional Delivery: Hybrid (Online simulations interleaved with in-person inquiry-based lab activities)

Pedagogical Approaches: Inquiry-based learning, online simulations/VR

Class Size: 24 students/section

About the LIT Redesign (Stage 1)

Background on the Redesign

Why Redesign your Course?

  • Biology 101L (BIOL 101L) fulfills the CSU General Education B.3 (Laboratory Experience) requirement, so it is a graduation requirement for many students.
  • Two lab classrooms are dedicated to teaching BIOL 101L at CSUF, but no additional space is available.
  • To meet fire code restrictions, enrollment in each section is strictly limited to 24 students.
  • There are 22-23 sections offered each semester during the academic year, and one section offered each summer.
  • The only way to increase the number of students who can enroll each semester is to expand using a hybrid lab format that interleaves in-person activities with online activities.
  • Because students who are able to enroll in the course tend to succeed, this hybrid approach must continue to support this level of student succeed, so that enrollment bottlenecks are not replaced with success bottlenecks.
  • Before migrating all BIOL 101L sections to a hybrid format, a pilot project using one of the two existing BIOL 101L is being implemented for Spring 2019. The goal of this pilot is to identify the key elements for successful implementation across all sections of BIOL 101L

High Demand/Low Success/Facilities Bottleneck Issues

  • Although it varies by semester, there are often more students wanting to take BIOL 101L than enrollment limitations can support.
  • In addition, the most popular times often have waiting lists of five students or more, even when seats are available at less popular times.
  • Enrollment bottlenecks are the most significant issue, since only 5.6% of enrolled students receoved repeatable grades in 2016-17.

Course History / Background

  • BIOL 101L is a general education for non-majors, and no credit for the Biology major is given.
  • Students must either have successfully completed BIOL 101 (or equivalent), or be concurrently enrolled in BIOL 101.
  • Nearly 3,000 students complete BIOL 101 each academic year, although not all of these students attempt BIOL 101L, since there are multiple courses that may fulfill the B.3 GE requirement.

Biology 101L Syllabus, Spring 2018
The syllabus, including the course schedule, for the traditional format of BIOL 101L. This course meets weekly for just under three hours (2:50), and includes two field trips to the Biology Greenhouse, and Fullerton Arboretum.

About the Students and Instructor(s) (Stage 2)

Student Characteristics

  • Students in Biology 101L represent the full breadth of diversity at CSUF:
    • All eight colleges are represented in a typical semester
    • In Fall 2018, students from 46 different majors are taking Biology 101L
    • Students come from the complete range of academic experience: first-semester freshmen to graduating seniors, including new transfer students who took their B.2 Life Science course at another institution
  • The course has a pre/co-requisite of Biology 101, the B.2 Life Science lecture course
    • There are over 20 sections of Biology 101 offered each semester, with a mix of in-person, hybrid, and online-only courses
    • Although all Biology 101 sections have the same course objectives, different instructors emphasize different details, and the order in which topics are taught varies widely
    • In a typical semester, 35-45% of the students in Biology 101L took the Biology 101 (the B.2 Life Science lecture course) in a prior semester
    • Thus, a significant challenge is the breadth of student background. Students may not have learned about a topic in their lecture course yet, or they may have taken the lecture course several years prior

Advice I Give my Students to be Successful

  • Assignments in Biology 101L are grouped into three types, each of which represents approximately 1/3 of the course grade: online pre-lab, lab activities, online module synthesis
    • To succeed in the course, make sure to put effort into all three types of assignments
      • Biology 101L is NOT a course you can ignore & "catch-up" later
      • A minimal amount of effort outside of class each week is needed to complete pre-lab & synthesis assignments
      • If you finish lab activities early, using the remaining time in lab to work on pre-lab & synthesis assignments in an environment with lots of resources (including your instructor!) available to help you will be an efficient use of your time, and will minimize the extra time you need to devote to Biology 101L
    • Pre-lab assignments help prepare you for the coming activities
      • Use these assignments to help review material you learned in Biology 101
      • If you haven't yet discussed a topic in Biology 101, these assignments will guide you through the basic details you'll need to understand and complete the lab activities
    • Module syntheses ask you to look for connections across multiple weeks, and to reflect on what you have learned
      • Some of the questions in these assignments will require you to use your data and notes from the lab activities, so make sure to have your lab manual handy
      • Reflective questions as you to think about what you have learned, and they do NOT have a correct answer. Responses are graded based on the level of effort you demonstrate in your response.
  • You often be working together on activities with your classmates. Make sure to be respectful of your team members to foster a productive working relationship
    • Developing the ability to work efficiently with diverse teams is skill that employers often state is something they look for when interviewing candidates
      • The "diverse team" part is almost automatic for us here at CSUF, so it's up to you to take advantage of the opportunity to develop the "work efficiently" skills

Impact of Student Learning Outcomes/Objectives (SLOs) on Course Redesign

  • Biology 101L, both the in-person course & the hybrid labs project, must meet the General Education B.3 Laboratory Experience goals
  • A goal of the hybrid labs project is to use time in the lab most efficiently by emphasizing the activity portion: conducting experiments, recording observations, and collecting data
  • Experimental design & evaluation of results are portions of the scientific method that lend themselves particularly well to online activities. Thus, these GE B.3 SLOs are particularly relevant:
    • Formulate and evaluate hypotheses using quantitative techniques
    • Analyze and manipulate graphical representations of data
    • Use statistical techniques to evaluate uncertainty in experimental data
  • Because students come in to Biology 101L with widely varying backgrounds & interests, the hybrid labs project also provides expanded options for helping all students reach a common level of understanding of the relevant concepts. GE B.3 SLOs related to this aspect are:
    • Understand the nature of scientific inquiry and the unique way that the natural sciences and mathematics describe the universe
    • Evaluate the validity and limitations of theories and scientific claims in interpreting experimental results
    • Understand the dynamic and evolving nature of the sciences
    • Recognize the importance of scientific paradigms and methods in understanding scientific concepts

Alignment of SLOs With LIT Redesign

  • Because a key element of a lab course is for students to be actively involved in the process of science, expanding access through leveraging online tools is key

Assessments Used to Measure Students' Achievement of SLOs

  • To evaluate how student performance & preparation in the hybrid labs compares with students in the in-person labs, performance on the existing pre-lab and synthesis assessments will be compared
  • In addition, student satisfaction, as measured by SOQ scores & comments, will be compared between the two course formats

Accessibility, Affordability, and Diversity Accessibility


  • One of the driving factors of the Biology 101L hybrid lab project is to expand the scheduling options to better support students with non-traditional schedules.
    • Many CSUF students attend classes on limited days or times to account for complex work schedules, child care, commute distance, and other scheduling commitments.
    • Facilities limitations mean that we cannot expand the number of in-person course offerings, nor can we increase enrollment of existing offerings.
    • The hybrid approach would allow expansion of course offerings to meet student needs within these facilities constraints.
  • Students with a variety of physical disabilities regularly take Biology 101L. Alternate means of completing lab activities are currently provided, but the hybrid approach will expand the tools available to support these students.
    • All activities that are being incorporated into the hybrid pilot will meet all accessibility guidelines.
    • Because online tools provide options that can make some lab activities more accessible to students with physical limitations, some of the approaches being implemented in the hybrid pilot will also be incorporated into the in-person format as needed to support DSS students.


  • Biology 101L currently uses a custom lab manual that costs students just under $30.
  • A goal of the hybrid lab pilot is to keep course materials at a similar cost for students, so that the choice of lab format will be driven by which option fits best into students' lives, rather than which option fits best into their budgets.


  • Including a mix of activities to encourage different modes of learning is a goal of Biology 101L, both for the current in-person course, and for the hybrid lab pilot project.
    • The current in-person implementation incorporates a mix of descriptive observations, guided-inquiry experiments, and directed-inquiry activities.
    • The hybrid lab implemention will continue to incorporate this mix, but an added goal is to reduce the number of directed-inquiry activities.
  • Students work alone, in pairs, and in groups of four for different activities, to encourage development of collaboration skills, as well as to provide opportunities for reflective, metacognitive learning.

About the Instructor

Carol Chaffee

  • As the course coordinator for Biology 101, including both the lecture and lab courses, my primary mandate is to investigate ways that we can increase student engagement and success in these courses.
  • My philosophy about teaching lab is that instructors are more analogous to coaches than lecturers. Students in lab should be doing things, not listening to an instructor talk. Thus, a major effort since starting at CSUF has been to shift the Biology 101L labs more towards having students actively engaged in the process of science. The hybrid lab project is an extension of this effort, since it expands student engagement into the online sphere.

Curriculum Vitae

A PDF version of my full CV is below, but here are some highlights:

  • PhD in Zoology from University of Florida in 2013HHMI Post-doctoral fellowship at Iowa State University, 2013-2015
    • Studied population genetics of monarch butterflies in North America
    • Experience & coursework on teaching science at the college level
  • HHMI Post-doctoral fellowship at Iowa State University, 2013-2015
    • Projects focused on improving use of active learning in large (>300 student) lectures & evaluating effects of redesigning intro biology labs on student success
  • Since 2015, Biology 101 Coordinator & Full-time Lecturer at California State University Fullerton
    • Completed 2016-17 CRT project on evaluating different tools for increasing student engagement in Biology 101 lecture courses
    • Redesigned lab manual for Biology 101L to increase use of guided-inquiry, instead of directed-inquiry

Chaffee CV
PDF version of Dr. Carol Chaffee's CV

LIT Redesign Planning (Stage 3)

Implementing the Redesigned Course What aspects of your course have you redesigned?

  • What are you now doing or planning to do through the redesign of your course? For example, "I used to lecture with some question/answer periods for 50 minutes. Now I "flipped" the classroom and have my students solve problems in groups of 4 during the class and I present 10 minute mini-lectures when students are confused about key topics."

Describe the class size(s) What technology is being used?

  • What technology strategies have you adopted and why? Explain how you have incorporated the technology to enhance your course redesign.

What professional development activities have you participated during your course redesign?

  • The PLC webinars, technology training, conferences, etc. § Key concepts learned?

Which Additional Resources Were Needed for the Redesign?

  • Describe, for example, how you might have incorporated or consulted with institutional research, instructional designers, department or campus colleagues, librarian, and/or the accessibility technology center.

(Upload your revised syllabus here)

LIT Results and Findings (Stage 4)

LIT Redesign Impact on Teaching and Learning

  • How has the course redesign strategies affected your instruction and your students’ learning? Did your redesign strategy solve the issues that motivated you to redesign the course?
  • Describe how your students mastered the student learning outcomes. Were the students more successful in the redesigned course than in previous courses? Explain.
  • Did you experience unexpected results after teaching the redesigned course? If so, what were they?
  • Consider attaching a more in-depth report describing the impact of your activities and experiences during the course redesign as a document/link/image. If possible consider including samples of students' work that reflect the impact of the redesign.

Assessment Findings

  • Use table and chart template to report course data (required).
  • Upload table and chart from your template (required) and reflect on your findings with a short description. You must include a course grades comparison of pre/post student achievements.
  • Share how your students achieved the learning outcomes? Describe how they mastered the learning outcomes compared to previous courses?

Student Feedback

  • What did your students say or how did they respond to the redesigned activities? Consider including your students' comments about their learning. Include survey results if you are able to capture them. Include student video feedback (optional).

Challenges my Students Encountered

  • What challenges did the students encounter in the redesigned activities? E.g., technical challenges, organization of course, and redesigned activities.

Lessons Learned & Redesign Tips

Teaching Tips

  • What advice do you have for others who might want to use this redesigned course?

Course Redesign Obstacles

  • What challenges did you confront and how did you overcome them?

Strategies I Used to Increase Engagement

  • What pedagogical strategies did you use in your new redesigned course to engage students?


  • How do plan to sustain the LIT redesign beyond the funding period?

Instructor Reflection

  • Reflect on your participation in redesigning a course, development of an ePortfolio, participation in CSU Course Redesign Professional Learning Community Share any plans to disseminate/publish the findings of your course redesign activity.