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The College of the Canyons Biological and Environmental Sciences Department was awarded the State Chancellor’s Office Innovative Use of Technology Award at the Chief Information Systems Officers Association Technology Summit on Wednesday, March 8 in San Francisco. This award recognizes cutting edge advancements in the department’s microbiology laboratories.

Spearheaded by Dr. Shane Ramey, a microbiology instructor at the college, the department created an innovative laboratory environment that is capable of achieving the highest safety standards for teaching labs set by the American Society of Microbiology, commonly referred to as “paperless” labs.

The term “paperless” refers to the ability of students to access all necessary resources in the lab without ever handling anything that will leave the lab with them, such as a paper lab manual, notebook and pens or pencils. This is particularly important in a microbiology laboratory where students work with live microbes and such items could potentially become contaminated.

“I am honored to receive this award on behalf of the biological and environmental sciences department and College of the Canyons,” said Ramey. “Paperless microbiology laboratories are extremely rare at the academic level, even among four-year colleges and universities, primarily because of the technological burden of operating such labs. Nevertheless, the benefits that such a paperless lab environment provides our microbiology students are multifaceted and include, in addition to enhanced safety, a demonstrable increase in student engagement and collaboration. All in all, COC’s paperless microbiology labs are better preparing our students for careers in the health sciences where they will be using some of the same technologies while caring for patients that have infectious diseases.”

Ramey was able to establish paperless microbiology laboratories at COC by incorporating technology into the labs that students interact with. For example, every microbiology student at COC has their own lab-dedicated iPad and Apple pencil that allow them to access the digital open education resource lab manual and other web-based resources, take notes and share data with their lab partners, as well as their own specialized microscope with an advanced camera system that allows them to view and take pictures of their specimens using their iPad. Students can then access all of their lab notes, data and pictures from anywhere via their cloud-based OneDrive accounts.

“Dr. Ramey and the biology department have done an amazing job creating an interactive learning space for our students where they can experience a state-of-the-art laboratory environment,” said James Temple, vice president of information technology at the college. “It was a pleasure to collaborate with Dr. Ramey to integrate and modify the technology tools necessary to make the paperless lab a reality at College of the Canyons.”

COC’s first paperless microbiology laboratory was established in the fall of 2021 with the opening of the Don Takeda Science Center at the Canyon Country campus. As of this semester, the microbiology lab at the Valencia campus has also been converted to a paperless lab so that all COC microbiology students have the same enhanced learning experience, regardless of which campus they attend. This was made possible through the collaborative efforts of the College’s Biological and Environmental Sciences and Information Technology departments.

“I wish to congratulate Dr. Shane Ramey and the biology department for receiving this statewide award,” said Dr. Omar Torres, chief instructional officer at the college. “Their efforts to go above and beyond to ensure the safety of students while also introducing them to working in a Biosafety Level 2 environment is to be commended.”

For more information about the college’s biology department, please click here.

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