Prior to spring break last semester, students enrolled in Structural Biology (BIO/BCMB429W) and Biochemistry II (BCMB452W) were busy collaborating in the lab. Some students were in Pfhaler Hall purifying proteins that have no known function – yet. Others were at their computers learning how to use computational tools to generate hypotheses on the functions of these proteins. The ultimate goal for students in both courses was to determine the biological function of these proteins. They were taking part in the Biochemistry Authentic Scientific Inquiry Lab (BASIL) that Rebecca Roberts (Department of Biology) has designed along with several collaborators from around the nation.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit and Ursinus was forced to move all teaching and learning to a remote setting. While challenging, both Drs. Wilner and Roberts knew it was important to allow the students to continue their projects. The students collaborated virtually, continued to work on computational analyses, and ultimately presented their work in either written or oral-presentation formats.
Many other students around the nation were also participating in the BASIL Curriculum, which is available free of charge online (https://basilbiochem.github.io/basil/). They too shifted to emergency remote learning. This allowed for a unique opportunity to compare students’ perceptions of learning and engagement in the BASIL curriculum when taught face-to-face or in a partially remote environment. A core team of BASIL developers and subsequent adopters did just this and their work was published in the Journal of Chemical Education in August (https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jchemed.0c00729).
Their reflections and initial findings illustrate the successes and challenges of the rapid change in instructional methods and highlight the opportunities of moving a Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) online. Specifically, the findings are guiding the development of a fully online version of BASIL for use during any situation where remote learning is desired. The BASIL team has received supplemental funding from the National Science Foundation to support this effort.