Biology Faculty Articles

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Publication Date


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Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education


onlineteaching, hybrid teaching, remote blended learning, wet lab, digital curriculum, course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE), scientific teaching, microbiology instruction, instructor community of practice




The pivot to remote and hybrid learning during the Covid-19 pandemic presented a challenge for many in academia. Most institutions were not prepared to support this rapid change, and instructors were left with the burden of converting a traditional face-to-face course into multiple modalities with very limited preparation time. When institutional support is lacking, we posit that instructor communities of practice can help provide the resources needed to meet the instructional demands. Tiny Earth, a course-based-undergraduate research experience (CURE) and international network of instructors and students, responded to the instructional challenges of the pandemic by leveraging its large community of instructors to create several smaller working groups to form focused communities of practice. Using the pedagogical principles of backward design and scientific teaching, one working group, the Tiny Earth Pivot Group (Pivot Group) generated a course map of remote learning activities and simulated learning resources to fulfill the Tiny Earth learning objectives and maintain the essential tenets of a CURE. Additional working groups were created to disseminate the resources collated and created by the Pivot Group to the greater community. In terms of Tiny Earth, the community structure provided the means for instructors to rapidly pivot their course materials to multiple modalities while upholding the student CURE experience. Harnessing the hallmarks of communities of practice—collective workpower toward common purpose, diversity of perspectives, and ongoing evolution—coupled with high-structured course design allows instructors flexibility and adaptability in meeting the changing modalities of higher education.


Work reported in this publication was supported by the National Institutes of Health Common Fund and Office of Scientific Workforce Diversity under award U54 GM119023 (NRMN), administered by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences; a gift from Catalent Corporate Responsibility Grants; and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education.

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