When she felt burned out, Nadine Kriska knew teaching wasn’t the reason.
It was taking on all the extra responsibilities that her department’s coordinator used to handle. After the coordinator retired - and there was no budget for a replacement - things like setting up and breaking down the in-person lab sections and keeping the lab room stocked with supplies became her responsibilities.
And all this was on top of her pre-existing responsibilities as Instructional Academic Staff at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater, including coordinating all online labs and keep the printed lab manuals up to date.
For a while there, Kriska was questioning things.
“I just felt devalued. I thought, you know, is this really what I want to keep doing?’"
Study results: what educators are saying
According to the 2021 Teacher Well-Being Index survey of 3,354 educators in the UK, the majority believe there are three things that should be done to improve teacher and staff well-being at work:
Reduce the burden of unnecessary paperwork/ data gathering (48%)
Reduce the volume of the workload (43%)
Recognize the high intensity/high pressure work environment (41%)
Science educators have one of the most important jobs there is. Unfortunately, they are now being asked to do more with less time and fewer resources. When faculty are bogged down with grading, adapting course content for hybrid teaching, updating lab manuals, coordinating lab setup and breakdown, and maintaining lab supplies, they simply don't have the time to prep for classes, give students individual attention, engage in research, or pursue their own professional development.
Teacher burnout is a complex problem. Here are a few ways we hope Labster makes things easier for educators:
Course alignment - 250+ virtual science labs align with course content in both high school and college.
Lab manuals - downloadable lab manuals can be customized to suit your course.
Automatic grading - embedded questions are automatically graded. Student progress is visible in the Teacher Dashboard.
Easy LMS integration - we integrate with all major learning management systems. IT administrators love that it takes just a few clicks!
Tech Support - educators and students have access to Labster tech support around the clock. We do the troubleshooting for you!
Reducing workload can help
Fortunately, things have improved for Kriska.
Off-loading the tasks of grading quiz questions and maintaining her grade book in the LMS via the Labster platform has been a “huge help” for Kriska. “Labster integrates with Canvas so I'll set up the grade book and put in the parameters I want Labster to track and it automatically sends the grades to Canvas.”
“Before we started using Labster, we kind of cobbled together e-learning material. We were relying on web sites and resources that allow access for free,” said Kriska. “But the big issue was always having broken links or activities that were no longer available, or finding out we now have to pay for them.”
Hybrid teaching idea: alternate virtual labs and physical labs
Kriska has an A/B hybrid lab schedule. “Since we’ve been using Labster, it’s been really helpful to have the flexibility to choose the particular virtual labs that complement our face to face labs,” she said.
“We use the virtual labs to introduce the bigger concept - like Mendelian Genetics - and then we expand on that in the face-to-face lab. It's been really nice.”
In-person teaching lifts spirits
The return to face-to-face teaching has also been a relief for Kriska. “Being back in-person and connecting more with the students has been refreshing.”
“What really resonates with me are the student responses. Most of them are unsolicited,” said Kriska. “They say how they really enjoy going through the Labster simulations and that they think they're fun. They’re a lot more engaged.”
Labster offers interactive, 3D virtual science labs that help students visualize theory, access state-of-the-art lab environments, and take their learning beyond the classroom, from the quantum realm to the surface of Mars. Expand your curriculum, target learning needs, and foster content mastery to prepare the next generation of scientists.