As a chemistry lecturer and chemistry lab manager at Fisk University, it was Cord Carter’s responsibility to find an alternative to teaching with in-person labs during the pandemic. After teaching with Labster simulations, Carter observed that his students seemed more able to apply their learning to real-life situations. He wanted to know how their learning outcomes compared to those from prior years, so he compared average grades before and after teaching with Labster.
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“Labster is cost-effective, it’s easy to use, and you have a better outcome. It’s great when your students tell their friends, ‘hey, you should take this course’.”
Just four faculty members teach in the chemistry department at Fisk University, an institution recently ranked among the top 10 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States by US News and World Report. From 2020-2021, Cord Carter was one of those four, teaching general chemistry, organic chemistry, and natural science courses. In his role as Fisk University’s chemistry lab manager, it was Carter’s responsibility to find an alternative to teaching with in-person labs during the pandemic. He knew had a unique solution when he found Labster.
Cord Carter served as the chemistry laboratory manager and as an instructor in the Department of Life and Physical Sciences at Fisk University from 2020-2021.
After teaching with Labster simulations, Cord Carter observed that his students seemed more able to apply their learning to real-life situations. Carter wanted to know how their learning outcomes compared to those from prior years when students were taught with traditional teaching methods. He suspected that his pedagogical approach of using active learning with Labster was more impactful for his students than the traditional lecture methods that were used in 2019. The results came as no surprise to him: average final course grades increased from a C- to a B.
Knowing Every Student’s Name
The beauty of Fisk is that we’re a smaller institution and the faculty in our department know every student on a first name basis. Class sizes are small so we’re able to help individual students get more excited by science. We sometimes don’t have the same facilities and resources as our sister institutions, but having Labster has actually helped reduce our costs and helped our
Teaching at an HBCU
When I was growing up, I didn’t see a lot of people who looked like me that were chemistry professors. Attending an HBCU allows students to see faculty who like them and can actually relate to their situation. I just want to share my passion for chemistry with my students so they’ll love chemistry as much as I do.
Making Science Relatable
I recently read a paper from the University of Washington that studied underrepresented minority students in General Chemistry. They found students who earned a grade of C or lower on their exams not only dropped out of their general chemistry course, but they also left college.
Students left because they felt like they were not capable of succeeding. When students only do a lab in-person, they don’t always make the connection between the experiment and what we’re trying to teach. I think Labster can help by making science more accessible and relatable. The storylines help students relate what they’re learning in class to the real-world.
“One of my students went to the science museum here in Nashville and saw the electromagnetic spectrum exhibit and said, wow, I remember this, we learned this in the Labster simulation!” — Cord Carter, Fisk University
How I Teach with Labster
In natural science courses, I actually used Labster as a homework assignment for students to actually look outside of their course and see how it relates to other things. And then in our general and organic chemistry labs, we actually used Labster in class. I loved helping my students to see the connection between course topics and between the classroom setting and the rest of their lives.
My goal is for students to actually want to explore to the point where they want to learn more and more about different topics from the lab. It’s great when your students tell their friends, ‘hey, you should take this course’.
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