Virtual delivery: a panacea for the financial and ethical challenges associated with physiology laboratory classes?

Voula Gaganis* (Corresponding Author), Elizabeth Beckett* (Corresponding Author), Julia Choate, Nancy Aguilar-Roca, Sarah Etherington, Charlotte Haigh, Derek A Scott, Terrence Sweeney, John Zubek, Michelle French

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


There has been a gradual shift in the delivery of physiology laboratory classes over the last 30 years. For many, wet-lab demonstrations using animal tissues have been reduced or replaced with student-led investigations where students are both subjects and researchers. Despite these changes, expectations remain that physiology courses should include a practical component to encourage deeper and higher-order learning. Wet-lab tissue experiments and student-based group research formats can be expensive to run, associated with various ethical constraints, and, as discovered in these times of COVID-19, difficult to operate while adhering to physical distancing. We address the proposition that online and/or remote delivery of laboratory classes using digital technologies may provide a solution to both financial and ethical constraints of on-campus laboratory classes. Our discussions, as an international group of 10 physiologists from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, revealed that although some of the financial and ethical constraints of using animal tissues and student-led investigations were addressed by the introduction of online alternatives, the construction and maintenance of online delivery modes could also be expensive and ethical issues, not previously considered, included digital equity and student data security. There was also a collective perception that if face-to-face laboratory classes were changed to an entirely virtual mode there was a risk that some intended learning outcomes would not be met. It was concluded that the “ideal” approach is likely a hybrid model whereby student attendance in face-to-face, on-campus classes is supported with interactive digital content either developed in house or obtained through third-party providers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 744-748
Number of pages5
JournalAdvances in Physiology Education
Issue number4
Early online date16 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • laboratory
  • virtual
  • financial
  • ethical
  • COVID-19
  • learning outcomes


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