After long weeks of home office and digital apprenticeship, things are finally looking up again: Under strict conditions, some practical courses are allowed to take place again! Let's have a look at the first courses after the lockdown.

It's May of 2020 and at our Biology department, nothing is the way it used to be. The corridors are empty, as are the lecture halls and the rooms for practical courses. Solely in the research laboratories, after some time of vacancy, cautious activity has returned. And yet: without students on campus, it's simply not the same!

But there is a silver lining: Since the beginning of May, biological classes have been allowed to offer practical courses in the premises again, even if only under strict conditions. One of the first internship events was the botany module for master students. We took a look at what a practical course looks like during these special times.

Necessity is the mother of invention and likewise, many great solutions were found to make the everyday work experience as safe as possible for the students and supervisors. The botany working group, for example, purchased microscope adapters that allowed students to take pictures of their specimens with their own smartphones. Like this, the could work completely contactless, since the aquired image could be quickly uploaded from the smarphone to the server and then projected onto the large screen in the room for everybody to see. Before the pandemic, a supervisor would have quickly taken a look through the stereomicroscope to evaluate the specimen, but of course that was not possible now.

© Osnabrück University | Lena Dehnen

This internship room is designed to accommodate 72 students - now a maximum of 12 people are allowed to work here. The strict safety regulations allow only two people at the same table to keep the risk of infection as low as possible. In this practical course, everything worked out nicely: Eight students have distributed themselves in generous distances to each other, wear in addition a mouth guard and must regularly disinfect the hands. Thus the practical course could be safely attended.

In addition, some plant determination exercises have been moved to where the plants grow: our Botanical garden. In the fresh air, the risk of infection was reduced to a minimum. In addition to the classic identification literature, the students were able to identify plant species with the support of the app "Flora Incognita" from the TU Ilmenau on their own smartphones. If you are curious about this approach, you can also download it here for your smartphone (iOS and Android) and test it yourself!

Of course, the preparation of these practical courses has been more challenging and complex than usual, as a lot of hygiene and safety standards had to be respected and a lot of creative ideas were necessary to realize a contact-free course. But we made the best of it and already know that we will certainly stick to the new features like the microscopy adapters and the implementation of smartphones. Without Corona, we might not even have stumbled upon these great tools! 

The students were in agreement as well: Studying Biology means to learn and apply practical skills, that's why our practical courses are essential! And like that, we give our best for you to experience practical courses in the future.