Dual delivery of archaeology lab sessions

Archaeology 1 is a practical introduction to archaeology, following the full archaeological process.  The course begins with the choices made before excavation. Students are introduced to different types of artefacts and trained in how to hold them, look at them and analyse them.  

The course includes sessions on osteo and zoo archaeology, sessions that involve familiarizing the students with the analysis of human and animal remains.  There are also sessions handling real world artefacts in the museum, supervised by museum conservators.   

In semester one of academic year 2021-22 not all students could attend sessions in person. Our challenge was to find and design a way to run lab sessions simultaneously with students online and on campus, in an engaging interactive manner. 

Dual delivered Archaeology Lab Sessions 

After looking at possible setup options, we decided on having a Dual Delivery facilitator, in fact a student, to assist with delivering practical sessions in the lab. A standard webcam was attached to a laptop and the student facilitator was the camera operator. The student facilitator carried the webcam round the lab and spoke to the students online, letting them know what was going on in the room and engaging them in discussion.   

When it came to the artefacts session, we decided to split the on-campus cohort into three seminar groups. In one space we discussed archaeological metals, in another ceramics, and in another lithics (stone tools). The students in the lab were split into three groups and we intensively moved them around each station. The students had to analyse the artefacts and answer some questions about them.  

A fourth group, the online students, would use the webcam to examine the artefacts. The student facilitator was able to visit each station and handle the artefacts.  

The student facilitator also described the artefact – as an additional audio description and commentary – for example, the materials that the artefact was made out of, what it felt like and how heavy it was. They opened the zoom chat box to have a discussion as a number of the students who were engaging online weren’t able to speak with their microphones. 

This student facilitator had no previous experience of archaeology. So the students online were having the conversation with, and experiencing the artefacts through, the eyes of another inexperienced student rather than an expert.  


When studying stone tools, each student had an opportunity to knap their own stone tool. Again, the facilitator held the camera to show the process in detail.  

The lecturer then held the camera attempted knapping. They described the sensation of knapping for the online students, for example, about the amount of force they were having to apply. The online students commented that they found this interactive process useful and that they got a sense of the physicality of the artefacts. 

Human Remains 

In another session, students laid out human remains from our teaching collections in complete anatomical order.  They then did an analysis of the potential age and sex of the person based on their assessment of different skeletal elements. The facilitator was able to zoom in closely with the webcam to help the online students assess the skeleton.  

A big screen was available in the lab and as images were broadcast for the online students, they were also shown on the big screen. Students in the lab did not have to get up and move around the lab to see specific features. In this way, the students in the classroom also benefitted from use of the webcam and the student facilitator’s participation. 

Later in this session, a large piece of paper showing different gradations of notch in the pelvis was used. This technique demonstrates whether the remains are more likely to be a male or a female sexed pelvis. The pelvis artifact was laid over this handout, so students could see the difference between them. Different examples were displayed on tables around the lab. Moving round the different tables using the webcam allowed the online students to see all the real-world examples. As this was also displayed on the big screen, students in the lab did not need to get up and crowd around the benches. They were able to see other examples, which differed from the example on their table. 

Museum Visit 

In previous years we have had a hands-on session in the Manchester Museum exploring archaeological conservation with the museum conservators. The students have had the opportunity to handle real world artefacts in the museum and discuss how to conserve those artefacts and the conservation choices that have already been made.  

During the pandemic, students and staff were not permitted to visit the museum. Artefacts were sent to the lab from the Museum. The Conservator for Manchester Museum was the guest lecturer who ran the lecture and the seminar. As it happened, at the time of the lecture the conservator became poorly and unable to come to campus, but well enough to run the seminar remotely.  

The Conservator delivered the seminar remotely broadcasting onto the big screen. The student facilitator and lecturer used the webcam to show the conservator the artefacts that the students were examining. 

Evaluation / Student Feedback

Hi Hannah, today’s seminar was very useful and made complete sense to me. Although we couldn’t touch the flint or metal artefacts, I could still see them clearly and was able to understand what I was looking at it. Especially with the flint as I was able to see students using it in action. With regard to sound quality, when there is little background noise I can hear very clearly, however when people are discussing in groups it does become harder to hear, this happened when we were discussing the metal artefact in the second part of the lecture. (The student facilitator) was very useful and helped me understand the function of flint better since they held the camera at an angle that allowed me to watch it be used in action. Hope this helps!

This unit is very informative in the lectures and seminars allow first hand experience to test your knowledge and gain practice. Very engaging helps to learn and very adaptive as it’s the only unit that I see really engaged with students whether they’re online or offline.

  • Online students had a rounded sense of the artefacts by visual and audio description. 
  • Students in the labs got the benefit of seeing the webcam footage on a big screen – this was particularly useful when dealing with delicate artefacts that could not be moved easily. 
  • Guest lecturers delivering sessions remotely were able to see and interact with the activity in the lab.  
Top Tips

Have a student intern or another member of staff to hold the webcam and be the eyes and ears of the students online. 


School: School of Arts, Languages and Cultures

Discipline: Archaeology

Academic: Hannah Cobb

Course: CAHE 10301 – Archaeology 1 

Cohort Size: circa 35

Themes: enhancing learning with technology

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