Digital science labs increase access for health students

NIC biology instructor Sandra Milligan’s Biology 160 course includes a digital lab component — allowing more flexibility for students pursuing careers in health care and health sciences.

NIC is continuing to offer select science labs online this fall and winter to support students pursuing careers in health care and health sciences.

“We’re so excited to be able to continue to offer this science lab both on-campus and through full digital delivery,” said Sandra Milligan, NIC course developer and biology instructor. “NIC biology faculty was among the first in the province to transition lab courses to digital delivery last year. We had very positive feedback from students who enjoyed the flexibility and accessibility of doing this course digitally.”

Milligan developed and teaches Biology 160: Anatomy and Physiology I — a required course for many health programs. It covers topics such as biochemistry, cell biology, genetics and includes an extensive laboratory component that has been adapted so students can complete the lab work at home.

“This course was the perfect test case for doing labs online, because it’s about the human body,” said Milligan. “Most of the work we do in the lab involves the students observing their own body – measuring heart rate, movement of joints, so we realized quickly most of it could be easily adapted to the digital learning environment.”

Sara Shelestynski, one of Milligan’s students, took Biology 160 this spring. As a full-time cardiology technologist with a busy schedule balancing work and assignments, the online format allowed her to complete the course as a prerequisite to the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program.

The future nurse praised Milligan for her presentation of course materials and her willingness to accommodate students.

“[Sandra’s] labs were interesting and the questions she asked the class were well-thought-out,” said Shelestynski. “Especially since I had previous experience in the cardiac component, I was impressed with how the labs pulled the concepts together.”

NIC continues to learn from the pandemic, adapting and expanding how courses are delivered to meet students’ needs. The College has also expanded its technology writing, math and tutoring supports to students.

“We are committed to supporting students in their learning,” said Neil Cruickshank, dean of arts, science and technology. “We have managed to strike a good balance between in-person programming, on campus and online delivery. This enhanced flexibility and accessibility will help learners pursue university-level education while managing work and life obligations.”

To register for online or in-person STEM courses or programs starting in winter 2022, visit