When it comes to the sciences at MiraCosta College, nothing--not even the COVID-19 pandemic--is going to get in the way of student success. Just ask the recipients of more than 3,000 lab kits, containing everything from blood typing chemicals to animal organs for at-home lab work, after their classes were moved online because of pandemic-related campus closures.
“This has been a monumental effort, a collaborative effort, among our faculty, instructional lab associates, and administrative services professionals to ensure our students are afforded lab instruction across the sciences during this pandemic,” said Mike Fino, MiraCosta College’s dean of math and sciences.
The effort entailed moving the entire science lab curriculum online within just a few months to prepare for the fall semester, a process that included determining what the in-home labs would include and assembling some kits in-house, while purchasing other kits from a vendor.
MiraCosta College also arranged to get the lab kits into the hands of its students through on-campus distributions, in-home deliveries for those lacking transportation options, and some were mailed to students living out of the region. One kit was sent to a MiraCosta College student in Belgium. Another was sent to a student in Virginia.
Microscopes were sent to the homes of microbiology students. Biotechnology kits include the same equipment--such as polymerase chain reaction machines--used in sophisticated lab analyses. In all, 3,023 students received at-home lab kits to ensure they would receive the same kind of experience as they would in a lab on campus. Students were also provided with all necessary protocols and safety recommendations.
Biotechnology major Daria Sharko said the impact on students goes beyond what is being taught. “It shows how much the college really cares about us and it does a lot for our confidence,” Sharko said. “I’m thankful for the college to provide us with the opportunity to keep going.”
Keeping it going for students has meant:
Some $350,000 in CARES Act funding helped pay for the effort.
“Being able to replicate a hands-on lab experience is a game changer for a lot of our students,” said Biology Professor Raymond Clark. “This transition to online courses has been really challenging for students for a variety of reasons, but overall MiraCosta College has done an excellent job leveraging our resources in helping students succeed, which is why we’re here.”
The transition underscores MiraCosta College leadership in STEM-related instruction. MiraCosta is home to a groundbreaking baccalaureate program in biomanufacturing and is among the initial cohort of 15 California community colleges securing approval from the California Community Colleges Board of Governor’s to offer a pilot bachelor’s degree program. MiraCosta College’s Nordson STEM Learning Center was honored with a 2018 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity, the oldest and largest magazine dedicated to promoting diversity in higher education. Opened in fall 2017, the Nordson STEM Learning Center provides an enhanced academic environment equipped with the latest computer equipment and software, tutoring areas staffed by peers and faculty, independent and group-study areas, reference materials, and resources, such as microscopes, slide sets, graphing and scientific calculators.
When classes went online and the Oceanside Campus was shut down, faculty and professional staff went to work ensuring the STEM learning and tutoring center services continued unabated.
“We were rapidly able to change our operational modality and go to online tutoring,” said Clark, the center’s faculty coordinator. “It was a Herculean effort, but we were able to offer online sessions via Zoom with services that now include virtual study rooms,” Clark said.
Said Senior Science Lab Associate Manesseh Park, “Obviously, we’d all prefer to be back in the lab, but this is pretty close to the same experience. I am so proud to be a part of this MiraCosta College family. These are different times, this is the new normal, and we’re all trying to adjust. It has truly been a rewarding, worthwhile experience for all the faculty and professional staff involved.”
About MiraCosta College
The MiraCosta Community College District has served the coastal North San Diego County area for over 80 years. More than 21,000 credit students per semester in over 70 disciplines enroll in associate degrees, university transfer and workforce readiness certificate programs. The college also serves a wide spectrum of educational needs in the region ranging from programs for adult education, basic skills, and ESL to a California Community College pilot program offering the nation’s first baccalaureate degree in biomanufacturing. MiraCosta College is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).