Adapting labs and STEM courses to the online environment
While the online environment may not be the traditional way of teaching labs or certain kinds of classes, it does offer an opportunity to rethink how students can learn outside of the traditional classroom.
Last updated: January 13, 2023, 3:36 p.m.
***The content on this page will be continually updated.
Principles of effective course design
In a streamlined course, the essential course components, learning objectives, assessment and learning activities are all in alignment. This means that all course activities (including readings, lectures, homework, lab exercises, etc.) are designed to support students in achieving the articulated learning objectives, and that assessments have been designed to measure how well students can meet those course learning objectives. So as you consider how to move course activities to an online environment, you will need to focus on the learning objectives and what it is that you really want students to be able to achieve by the end of the course.
Options for delivering content
As you consider how to approach your course, do a quick scan of the resources and materials that already exist online. There is a wealth of resources that have already been created for use online that can be linked to your course, or even embedded. Here is a list of sites that might have useful content for your courses:
- MIT OPEN COURSEWARE (and other Mooc sites, such as edX and Coursera)
- The Khan Academy
- Journal of Visualized Experiments (Access subscription items with your Concordia netname and password)
- Best Simulations & Animations - links to Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Earth and Space Science
Options for developing your activities and assessments
As you consider these course objectives, you can begin to think about how these might be achieved in other ways outside the classroom. Here are a few ideas:
- students design their own experiments and make hypostheses based on assigned content.
- students watch a simulation video of an experiment (either created by you using your mobile phone or one that already exists on the web) and record the data
- if the learning objective is to get students interpreting data, analyzing it and making conclusions, then provide students with a set of data from a journal article(or other source) to work with.
Options for online labs
There are options for online labs and simulations. Depending on your discipline, there will be specific sites and/or software that offer these kinds of activities for students. Although a Google search would help narrow down sites for your specific topic, some of these include:
- (NEW!) Virtual Lab and Science Resource Directory (BCcampus Open Education)
- PhET Interactive Simulations (University of Colorado Boulder)
- Mathematica (See the Concordia University Mathematica page for information on getting access)
- Molecular Workbench
- Interactive Physics
Please find below links to other resources pages from other universities that might contain additional useful information.
- At home chemistry kits allow students to create lab experiences remotely (Standford Univeristy)
- (NEW!) Pivot to Online for STEM Educators (video - instructors sharing experiences going online)
- Online Resources for Science Laboratories (POD) - Remote Teaching - *****A very thorough dynamic document of STEM resources for teaching online that includes Simulation/Virtual Labs, Data Sets, Case Studies & Media.
- Strategies for Direct Instruction (Princeton University) - scroll down to Lab-based courses
- Teaching Lab Classes Remotely (U Penn CTL)
- Science Labs (Harvard U Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning)
- Lab and Experiential Courses (Teaching Continuity at Caltech)
- Tales from Tranisition to Temporary Remote Teaching: The First Year Chemistry Laboratory Edition (Jennifer MacDonald, Dalhousie Univesity)
- Improve STEM Teaching and Learning (KNILT)