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As Higher Education Institutions start to look towards the new academic year and working within ongoing restrictions due to COVID-19, many educators are looking at how best to teach technical skills effectively, while ensuring the safety of students and staff.

Below we provide some of the most up to date advice on online STEM teaching as well as carrying out face to face laboratory teaching and the risk assessment needed for this.

We have also published a FAQ section for accredited HEIs which may address any immediate concerns.

THE Article

Times Higher Education article about the move from in-person to online technical skills teaching. Please see the RSB’s response below.

‘There’s no doubt that virtual laboratory classes can be very effective in supporting learning for laboratory-based subjects, and indeed this approach was pioneered in the teaching in tertiary level chemistry some years ago. What this doesn’t do is replace the skills that are learned in the laboratory for chemistry and biology in particular, in the workshops for engineering, or indeed in the clinic for health-care subjects. Technical teaching is not just about the theory and the academic background – it is critically about working in the practical environment to learn the skills, and to become comfortable in that environment – both of these need time and practice.

Employers are not looking for a theoretical knowledge of science – they are looking for the practical application of that knowledge: a crucial reason for development of accreditation by the Royal Society of Biology has been to address the need for that practical training, essential for the further and future development of a biotech sector which is more critical now than ever before to address the challenges of our global world.’

Laboratory Teaching: Ensuring the Pipeline

Now more than ever, employers in the biological and biomedical sciences need employees skilled in laboratory working.

The teaching of technical skills must continue for current students and we can’t only rely on delaying teaching until the second semester of 2020/21 due to the cycling of COVID-19 infection rates. Some face to face teaching in laboratories will be crucial in ensuring students gain the skills needed for their future in the lifeciences sector.

The Society has produced guidance on laboratory training during COVID-19 and risk assessment based on the for laboratory work in commercial settings.

The Society has identified the following for consideration before teaching and learning in the lab resumes:

  • Capacity of the lab, taking cleaning protocols into account
  • Layout of the lab and impact of social distancing restrictions
  • Application of the Safe Working approach advocated by Government, but in the context of teaching laboratories
  • How risk can be managed while still ensuring students learn the skills they need

Laboratory working during the pandemic will be beneficial to students who will learn how to work safely but effectively, and these new approaches could become part of this cohort’s learning outcomes.

Full discussion papers on the areas of laboratory teaching are available to download:

Ensuring the pipeline: laboratory training in the time of coronavirus

Ensuring the pipeline:risk assessment for laboratory teaching

Resources for Online STEM Teaching

It is anticipated that the pandemic will have some long-term consequences for teaching, learning and assessment in higher education.

Not all of these will be negative; for example, there will be some significant developments and increased familiarity with innovative learning technologies.

Below is a list of some of the resources currently in place to support and encourage the adoption of different online teaching techniques.

Lecturemotely is a website for Higher Education lecturers and institutions to find and share resources and support for remote teaching, assessment and student support in response to COVID-19.

Follow the #DryLabsRealScience hashtag on Twitter to join up to date conversations on teaching during the pandemic.

Molecular Workbench is a powerful, award-winning software that provides visual, interactive computational experiments for teaching and learning science.

Advance HE regularly update their advice page with resources and events for the HE sector.

e-BioPracticals is a collection of simulations and other resources for use as alternatives to face-to-face practicals or for undergraduate capstone projects in the Biosciences, developed by Dr Dave Lewis, University of Leeds.

Open Access Data Repositories is a collection of large publicly available datasets from around the world, for use in data analysis sessions or capstone projects, developed by Dr Dave Lewis, University of Leeds.

Bioscience Capstones: How to do it guides has 14 "How to Do It" guides covering both traditional and non-traditional undergraduate final year capstone projects during COVID-19. Also, a list and video presentation discussing suggestions for capstone projects that can be delivered solely or predominantly online, developed by Dr Dave Lewis, University of Leeds.

If you have a resource you would like to be added to the list, please email