Faculty Highlight: Laura Sessions Provides an Interactive Lab Experience During COVID

Thursday, January 28, 2021

By Claudia Zequeira

What does it take to successfully teach Organic Chemistry I in a purely online environment?

The answer, of course, depends on whom you ask, but if you ask Laura Sessions, professor, chemistry, she’ll tell you it takes at least 37 videos.

“And that’s just one lab experience for one class,” said Laura, who began teaching at Valencia in 2010.

With the help of Valencia Productions, Laura has painstakingly directed the creation of these videos in an attempt to replicate a laboratory experience lost to students after the pandemic caused our campuses to close.

“At the beginning of COVID, this was a PowerPoint of still pictures,” said Laura, who also teaches Organic Chemistry II. “It was not nearly as dynamic and we missed all the lab techniques … This is a step up from what the students experienced at the beginning of all this.”

“It was important to me that it be real and have video of actual reactions in the lab. And it was important to me to that it was interactive so that there was a little bit of the critical thinking for students,” she added.

Because of the high quality of the recordings, modeling laboratory techniques with precision became possible in her Organic Chemistry I course.

Suddenly, students could differentiate between two separate but incredibly similar liquids and observe proper techniques for purifying, mixing and measuring them. The videos also showed students how to wear personal protective equipment like goggles and gloves and how to handle laboratory equipment correctly; among other vital skills required by industry.

Watch one of the demonstrations below as student and Lab Assistant II Rosarnie Perez demonstrates lab techniques in one of Laura’s class videos.

Under Laura’s direction, the videos were then integrated into a holistic learning experience. In order to accomplish this task, she enlisted the help of Gary Kokaisel, faculty development, instructional designer.

With Gary’s help, she was able to integrate a navigation pathway through her virtual lab lesson that guided students through a series of steps that both imparted and tested knowledge.

Specifically, students were tasked with identifying an unknown chemical, which could only be accomplished by measuring and comparing physical properties and by conducting certain qualitative chemical tests.

The process, which involved creating nine possible pathways for students to follow, essentially mimicked real-life scientific inquiry and made for a very interactive experience as students sought to solve the given puzzle.

“[After arriving at each pathway] students have to make a decision … and say, okay, am I going to measure the density, am I going to look at the solubility, and then they have to do careful observations of each procedure in order to make the identification,” said Laura.

A screenshot of one of the many interactive pathways created for the ”Qualitative Analysis of an Unknown” lab for Organic Chemistry I lab.

Although the credit for creating the lesson goes to Laura, she made sure to praise the work of lab staff, designers and videographers at the College who made it all possible.

Besides Gary, Laura commended the work of Michael Maguire, operations manager, video productions, and Scott Smith, producer, multimedia, who filmed and edited the videos; Rosarnie Perez, laboratory assistant II, who lent her talent to on-camera demonstrations; and Justine Monsalve, manager, laboratories, who assisted with securing lab materials and equipment.

“I want to emphasize that this was only possible because of the great team of people that we had from all these departments,” said Laura. “That’s what it took to do all this work.”

Do you know a faculty member doing great work? Or, perhaps you’d like to share the work you’re doing? Send the colleague’s (or your) name to us at  The_Grove@valenciacollege.edu and include Faculty Highlight Nomination in the subject line of your email. We might just feature your colleague (or you) as an upcoming Faculty Highlight.


  • Adrienne Mathews said:

    What a great experience for the students, Laura…awesome job!

    PMThu, 28 Jan 2021 18:38:49 +0000Thu, 28 Jan 2021 18:38:49 +0000pm21,6:38 pm

    • Laura Sessions said:

      Thanks, Adrienne!

      AMFri, 29 Jan 2021 09:15:38 +0000Fri, 29 Jan 2021 09:15:38 +0000am21,9:15 am

  • Mike Bosley said:

    Nice work Dr. Sessions! I know how much time and effort you put into this project… Lake Nona Campus is proud of you!

    PMThu, 28 Jan 2021 18:43:38 +0000Thu, 28 Jan 2021 18:43:38 +0000pm21,6:43 pm

    • Laura Sessions said:

      I appreciate your support in getting it done!

      AMFri, 29 Jan 2021 09:16:09 +0000Fri, 29 Jan 2021 09:16:09 +0000am21,9:16 am

  • Lauren R. Thomas said:

    This is ABSOLUTELY REMARKABLE! Excellent work Laura! I know our students are in good hands 🙂

    PMThu, 28 Jan 2021 19:35:17 +0000Thu, 28 Jan 2021 19:35:17 +0000pm21,7:35 pm

    • Laura Sessions said:

      Thanks, Lauren!

      AMFri, 29 Jan 2021 09:16:26 +0000Fri, 29 Jan 2021 09:16:26 +0000am21,9:16 am

  • Melonie Sexton said:

    Love your creativity and innovation, Laura!

    PMThu, 28 Jan 2021 22:11:13 +0000Thu, 28 Jan 2021 22:11:13 +0000pm21,10:11 pm

    • Laura Sessions said:

      Thanks, Melonie!

      AMFri, 29 Jan 2021 09:16:42 +0000Fri, 29 Jan 2021 09:16:42 +0000am21,9:16 am

  • Eileen Perez said:

    Wow Laura, that's awesome. In addition to the different videos, I like the site layout with different links which make it easy for students to navigate, and re-watch specific videos.
    Always impressive! High-five!

    PMFri, 18 Mar 2022 14:38:03 +0000Fri, 18 Mar 2022 14:38:03 +0000pm22,2:38 pm

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