Future college environments, including those in chemistry, will entail flexible formats. The pandemic spurred appreciation of the need, and though it has largely passed, adaptability to multiple formats in the future has been a critical part of planning for a rapidly changing future. Experiences during the pandemic will guide pedagogical changes and practices in the future. At El Camino College in Southern California, the chemistry department provided varied laboratory instruction to students during Emergency Remote Teaching. Understanding the experience students had during this extraordinary time is essential. Students who took courses that had an online laboratory course completed a mixed-methods survey. The survey consisted of a new tool designed for the study (Inquiry Rubric Tool), one used previously in the literature (Meaningful Learning in Laboratory Instrument), and a series of qualitative questions. Results of the complete survey showed that most students experienced low levels of inquiry and lower levels of meaningful learning compared to the literature during their online laboratory assignments. In addition, levels of inquiry showed a negative correlation when compared to affective, cognitive, and cognitive/affective scores derived from the survey. Levels of confusion and frustration were high. Poor quality materials, lack of hands-on activities, and lack of instructor presence were common. Some positives were noted regarding the ability to repeat experiments online and the flexibility of performing experiments when students wished. Students indicated interaction with fellow students during ERT as important. Suggestions for policy change, including synchronous work and hands-on activities, are made to invoke policy change at El Camino College in case of future ERT or further online chemistry course curriculum development.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Chemistry--Study and teaching (Higher); Computer managed instruction; COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020-

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Eric Hamilton