Students’ perspectives and experiences with equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility in online and in-person undergraduate science laboratory courses




undergraduate science laboratories, digital education, equity and diversity, inclusive education, accessibility


Inclusive education strengthens the capacity of academic systems and addresses the needs of all learners. Although colleges and universities are embracing diversity and introducing inclusive principles into higher education policies and practices, there is scarcity in research exploring undergraduate university students’ participation and engagement in science laboratories, especially among underrepresented and equity-deserving groups. Accordingly, this study explores students’ perspectives on undergraduate laboratory courses and investigates best practices for creating equitable and accessible laboratory environments, both in-person and online. This study addresses the following research questions: 1) How accessible are online and in-person undergraduate laboratory courses to students? 2) What equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility (EDIA) barriers exist in laboratory courses? and 3) What support structures are recommended to ensure inclusion of all students in laboratory courses? A mixed methods design was employed to gather data using an online questionnaire and semi-structured interviews with 58 students in undergraduate laboratory science courses from diverse cultural, ethnic, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds at a Canadian university. 

Findings highlight that students considered online labs to be flexible, convenient, self-paced, relaxed, and inclusive with respect to aspects involving physical disabilities and language barriers. In-person labs were deemed fast-paced, yet valuable for technical skills and inclusive considering elements pertaining to collaboration, academic support, and communication with peers and faculty members. Students highlighted the following as common inclusion barriers in both online and in-person delivery formats: accessibility (physical and language), financial, and stereotypical barriers. Recommendations for improving lab accessibility were also included.

This research has significant implications for the design of laboratory courses and other experiential learning environments in higher education, particularly considering recent transitions and modifications in education. This paper will discuss implications related to the following sub-themes in the special issue: instructors’ professional development, digital education, and quality enhancement.

Author Biographies

Mariam Takkouch, Western University

Mariam Takkouch is a PhD candidate in Curriculum Studies at the Faculty of Education with a collaborative specialization in Environment and Sustainability at Western University, Canada. Her research focuses on science and environmental education, social justice, and experiential learning in K-12 and post-secondary programs.

Stephanie Zukowski, Western University

Stephanie Zukowski, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University, Canada. She is also the department’s Undergraduate Chair. Her research focuses on inclusivity and experiential learning in medical sciences education.

Nicole Campbell, Western University

Nicole Campbell, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry, Western University, Canada. She is the Director of Interdisciplinary Medical Sciences (Undergraduate and Graduate). Her research focuses on interdisciplinary learning and skill development in medical sciences education.


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