Encouraging the use of digital handling system for lab reports

Posted by Alicja Kluczyk, on Oct. 16, 2023, 10:51 p.m.

Alicja Kluczyk

Faculty of Chemistry, University of Wrocław, Poland

Challenge and goal

Laboratory reports should be submitted in a timely manner, quickly assessed and returned with comments and grading, with the option of re-submitting the improved version. At the end of the course the reports are collected for the confirmation of work and learning outcomes.
Paper reports are quickly produced during the lab or after some additional work, but must be delivered to the correct person, then stored, graded, discussed and, finally, archived. Digital reports require some extra work, but they may contain advanced graphics and colour elements, they do not require paper and storage space, and are easier to trace, exchange and archive.

The challenge of report handling includes presentation of clear rules for preparation and grading of reports, collecting reports, which may be inconvenient without proper technology, observing deadlines, misplaced or missing reports that result in paperwork piling-up, limited feedback and limited chance for error correction.
Both students and teachers suffer because of the limitations of this process.

The goal of this case is to promote the evolution of the existing paper-based systems to employ the already available digital tools, ballancing the required effort with saved resources, increased efficiency and general well-being.


Topic of the user case

Motivating evolution towards digital technology of lab report handling.


Case picture:
Ralf Steinberger from Northern Italy and Berlin, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Local context (specific)

At the Faculty of Chemistry, University of Wrocław (UWr), there are no general rules concerning handling of student reports. Various practices are in effect in different labs.

Current problems, according to course evaluation forms (students) and faculty discussions (teachers):
Students complain that some courses do not provide clear requirements for report format and reliable grading scheme, sometimes reports got misplaced or lost, grades delivered late, without explanation and feedback.
Teachers complain on the quality of reports (parts missing), deadlines not met, time-consuming work, disagreements and conflicts, lack of storage space.

Digital reports are getting more popular, and the current trend to use the E-edu (Moodle-based, University learning management system platform) for report handling opens the possibility to encourage not only the broader use of collection/archivization function of the platform, but also inspire interest in fast grading and communication options. However, extra effort is needed from teachers to develop the complete procedure, including preparation of digital versions of rubric and managing work on-line. Administrative actions are counterproductive, whereas showing the benefits of the system and providing training and encouragement may bring long-lasting effects. 

Local CPD goals

The goal of the project is EVOLUTION towards adaptation of the digital handling system for the lab reports at the Faculty of Chemistry, UWr.
The project recognizes the autonomy of teachers in course design and development, as well as their skills and hard work, aiming at increasing their awareness of available digital resources, providing training, advice and mentoring, and highlighting possible benefits and advantages of digital system use. 

Needs defined in STEM-CPD Roadmap

9 give prompt feedback and support students during learning
14 teach large groups of students
12 design laboratory courses
20 use digital tools in lab courses
4 make students feel special, included, safe and secure.
11 organize / attend meetings of their own teaching team to discuss / reflect on the teaching methods and on the effect of those on students' learning.
13 analyse the effect of teaching and introduce changes in an evidence based way.
4 attending hands-on workshops on specific continuous professional development (CPD) topics.
12 getting peer-feedback on own teaching practice from a colleague.
16 getting just-in-time support on a specific teaching and learning issue.
18 giving workshops to other lecturers.

CPD activities at the local university

After analysis of the opinions of Teachers and students, available resources, formal requirements, and personal experience of the author, the following activities are proposed:

  • leading by example - personal statement of case author on benefits of digital system to evoke curiosity in teachers (letter, video message)
  • promoting already available technological knowledge (existing training materials on task preparation and assessment (UWr Distance Learning Centre (CKO))  
  • synchronous and asynchronous training for interested teachers on Faculty-specific report-handling approach (workshops, Moodle modules with instructions and examples in faculty training course),
  • cooperation with developing solutions dedicated to specific lab courses, consulting and encouraging discussion and idea sharing (E-learning group meetings, P2P discussions, specially prepared Moodle module in faculty training course, general discussion forum) 


Teaching and learning materials:

Distance Learning Centre (CKO) at UWr provides training of basic general functions of Moodle-based, University learning management system platform, more specific applications are developed in cooperation with interested Faculties and made available to University community.
Moodle user websites offer advice and solutions related to more complex ideas.
Faculty of Chemistry offers special Moodle course prepared by E-learning group (led by the case author), containing examples designed or adapted for chemistry-related needs.
ECTN materials (Laboratory report for STEM studentsAssessment for learning - providing feedback etc.)

Materials that would be prepared for the user case: 

  1. Personal statement outlining the benefits for teachers and students (letter, video material).
  2. Instructions (in a form of Moodle module) presenting:
    • setting a task (report collection), with file format and size, deadlines and file naming scheme
    • transforming report requirements into rubric (instruction with examples)
    • setting rubric table with comments
    • grade and feedback delivery
    • archiving reports
  3. Evaluation forms for teachers (experience assessment, satisfaction, efficiency) and students (complexity, benefits, time management, satisfaction)


Sustainable implementation

Moodle course prepared by E-learning group (led by the case author), containing materials from this user case, will be available to Faculty members (teachers, PhD students). Internal decisions of student labs at the faculty, with their specific materials and solutions, will be handled internally and shared among teachers in subject area).

Expected impact of the CPD User Case

The expected impact on Faculty teachers is related to improvement in time management and possible changes in report preparation instructions as well as reflection on report assessment system. The impact on students is expected to clarify the report submission system, increase the fairnes in assessment and grading, and save time and resources.

Plans for eventual continuation of the CPD within the same topic

The materials prepared for this case will be available to the Faculty, including PhD students, in the following years (E-edu Moodle module). Comments from teachers and lab supervisors will broaden the experience range and indicate additional areas for improvement or modification.


Competence teaching, Engagement and motivation, facilitation discipline specific learning, Blended learning (type P1-2a, P1-3b, P1-4b)

This CPD scenario describes a User case in which lecturers develop their competence in teaching in higher education and how to engage and motivate students and how to facilitate discipline specific thinking and how to use blended learning and develop attitudes in supporting student development and enabling students’ well-being in a learning process and inclusivity and reflecting on own teaching practice and practicing teaching and learning in an evidence informed way.
The approximate duration of a User case that follows this scenario is several months.
In this CPD scenario the participants are using a very short open online course, a micro mooc (μmooc) and professionalize in a close connection to their own teaching practice (at their workplace) and meet in person on location with the training staff and with other participants.

Learning environment
Several months

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