What’s it like to major in biology as an online student?

July 19, 2022 · 3 min read · By ASU Online
At-home lab kits and cutting-edge VR are part of ASU Online’s biology curriculum. Learn more about what it’s like to major in biology online at Arizona State University.
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Learn how ASU’s digital learning platform leverages the latest technology combined with an authentic lab experience to deliver high-quality learning experiences to ASU Online students.

The academic discipline of biology can lead to a career in medicine, scientific research or many other fields. Students who major in biology typically attend lectures, study from textbooks and perform laboratory experiments. The same holds true for online students, who, thanks to remote learning technology, have the opportunity to learn, study and attend biology labs online.

Studying biology with ASU Online includes an array of hands-on and virtual lab work performed from your own home. This ensures that, as a biology major studying online, you'll have the opportunity to finish your degree with practical skills and textbook knowledge.

 

How do biology labs online work?

There are two kinds of biology labs for students who learn online: hands-on labs and virtual reality (VR) labs.

Hands-on online labs are in many ways similar to the traditional image of a biology lab, just transposed to students' homes. In a hands-on online biology lab, you're sent lab instructions prior to the start of term, including directions on how to order and purchase your lab kit. There are a variety of options, including packages for multiple courses. You'll also be introduced to your lab instructor, who’ll be your go-to for any questions about the labs. Be sure to get your lab kit before the start of term, as well as your personal protective equipment (PPE), including your white lab coat.

When your package arrives, it’ll contain the resources you need, including chemicals and other biological material, in addition to detailed instructions on how to proceed. You can do the labs on your own time, as long as they're completed by the due date. If you're nervous about a lab, it's often best to get it done early. By doing so, you can ensure you have plenty of time to reach out to your lab instructor or biology professor before the lab is due.

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ASU Dreamscape gives students the ability to virtually navigate situations they’re learning about in the classroom, enhancing retention and giving them the practice they need to succeed.

Virtual reality labs are a recent innovation. In fact, Arizona State University partnered with Google in 2018 to create the first VR lab program for ASU Online students. VR labs enable you to experience labs that wouldn't normally be accessible through an online biology lab — or in undergraduate biology courses generally.

In a VR lab, you wear a specially designed headset similar to those used for video gaming, but with software adapted for science. ASU Online lends you the headset, so there's no equipment fee. Once you're connected via the internet, you then enter a virtual space where your movements are captured, allowing you to perform scientific tasks. For example, recent VR labs offered by ASU Online have enabled students to draw and analyze human blood samples and manipulate DNA.

 

Who teaches ASU Online’s biology labs?

Identical to students on campus, biology students online have a professor and a lab instructor for each course. Your professor will deliver lectures, set exams and ask questions during a standard course block. Your professor will also have office hours where you can discuss exams or course material outside of class.

Your lab instructor oversees your lab work, making sure you have all the materials you need, guiding you through your experiments and ensuring you're conducting them safely. Your lab instructor is also the first person to turn to if you have a question about the labs.

Among the skills you'll develop is the ability to make observations of your experiments and record your findings in a lab notebook, which will be invaluable when you present your lab results and write lab reports.

Biology labs online are also part of your coursework and will be assessed and factored into your final grade.

Want to learn more? Get the details on ASU Online’s Bachelor of Science in biological sciences program and its concentrations in biomedical sciences, biology and society, conservation biology and ecology, and genetics, cell and developmental biology.

Gain hands-on research experience through ASU Online’s OURS program

The OURS program was created to provide hands-on research experiences to online students interested in careers in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.

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