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Looking at the Laboratory Discussion: Course Modality Choice and Student Performance in Organic Chemistry

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In the sciences, the laboratory is one of the most impactful spaces for student learning, engagement, and experience. Prior knowledge gleaned during lecture and laboratory discussion (i.e., a course section designed to further emphasize conceptual content underlying experiments and inform students about laboratory procedures or safety precautions) acts to supplement laboratory performance. With the recent increase in offering traditionally face-to-face courses in remote formats, many educators in the field of organic chemistry have opted to offer online laboratory discussion (LD) sections alongside more traditional face-to-face laboratory discussions. However, research on enrollment in laboratory discussions by modality, as well as their impact on subsequent course performance, is lacking. Conducting a logistic regression analysis, we found that females, students who identified as Black or African American, those with greater average ACT-SAT equivalency scores, and those students who completed organic chemistry LD online in the prior term all had greater odds of enrolling in an online organic chemistry LD course in subsequent academic terms. Additional hierarchical regression analyses indicated that many student- and academic-level factors were predictive of laboratory performance. Notably, when controlling student-level and academic-level characteristics, laboratory performance was higher for students who completed LD online compared to students who enrolled in face-to-face LDs. This study has important implications for students as they uptake courses in online settings and faculty as they decide what portions of their courses to offer remotely.

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