Date: Thu, 12 May 2011 14:36:03

Author: --- Dan Beeker

Subject: Re: defending the lab course


Oh but if they go to virtual labs and incorprorate
the lab into the lecture course by changing the lecture from 4
credits to 5 credits the the lab essentially costs nothing to the
college. The student pays for the online virtual virtual lab
through the text book fee and the college gets to pocket the whole
1.5 mil. That isn't counting the overhead saved by not having to
provide office space, supervision and payroll services for 37 TAs.
I would be looking for a more compelling argument based on

Dan Beeker

On 5/12/11 11:19 AM, Jerry Hester wrote:

Hi Stan,
Your post has made me think about this and do some quick calculations.
Our students pay an average of $400 per credit hour.
Our labs are one credit hour plus $100 lab fees.
We average about 1500 students in the labs per semester so 3000 credit hours.
Total income: 1,500,000.
The labs are taught by 37 TAs who are paid $18,000/year
Total cost of staffing for labs is approximately $700,000/year
Equipment costs are approximately $100,000/year.
I can only guesstimate overhead costs such as HVAC, cleaning, building maintenance, etc. but I would place those at less than $100,000.
So our lab programs bring in more the $600,000.
Out TAs are our Graduate students who typically are Research Assistants within two years and even during their TA years, they serve far more than just their TA responsibilities.

So: economically, our lab program is a money maker!

Jerry H.
-----Original Message-----
From: [] On Behalf Of Stan Dodds
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2011 10:17 AM
To: Listserv TAP-L
Subject: [tap-l] defending the lab course

Rice's Provost has just informed my Dean and department chair that
introductory physics labs are useless because they only cover trivial
material like mechanics and electricity. They should therefore be
abolished in favor of computer simulations at most, and preferably no
lab instruction at all. What he really means is that labs require
space, teaching personnel, and supplies, and he wants to use those
resources to support something else, probably externally-funded

I intend to argue that introductory labs are necessary to develop
skills, such as data taking and analysis, that are essential to later
projects or research, and serve more immediately to reinforce concepts
taught abstractly in class. However, pedagogical concerns are less
likely to influence the current administration than comparisons with
standard practice at other institutions. To that end, I would like to
know how others run the introductory lab for physical science and
engineering students. Specifically:

Is there a laboratory component or course required with freshman

What format is used? For example, conventional "cookbook" labs,
workshop style with integrated lecture/lab, something in between?

How frequent are lab sessions, and how long do they meet?

If students work in groups, how many to a group?

How many students does each instructor supervise in a session?

Are simulations used exclusively? at all?

How are results reported and graded? Lab notebook, work sheet,
informal summary....?

To avoid clutter on TAP-L, please respond directly to
If you prefer to provide a link to your student materials, I can
probably extract the necessary information myself.

I apologize for inflicting yet another survey, but I suspect many of
you will be facing similar challenges as budgets continue to tighten
and administrators become ever more distant from actual students and
teaching. Assuming there is interest, I will summarize the results for
the list, without identifying individual programs.

Rice University, Houston

Dan Beeker