Online Teaching and Learning

37 Digital Laboratory Activities

Jennifer Smith

Considerations | Online Simulations | Lab Simulation Resources


Professor recording a lecture on a lightboardTransitioning a course that relies upon kinesthetic learning into a meaningful experience online takes a bit of thought and planning. It CAN be done successfully and UF has instructional designers who can help!

  1. Determine what is feasible.
    • Work with your department chair and dean to determine which course goals are realistic
    • Identify possible changes to M&S or course fees as early as possible
  2. Online does not necessarily mean on a computer
    • Students may record interactions that take place in their own location
    • Kits can be mailed to students (there are vendors who specialize in these)
    • Check with Environmental Health & Safety if students will be using hazardous materials or equipment
    • Citizen science organizations provide opportunities for students to record observations and analyze data
    • Performances can be recorded, critiqued, and combined using video recording platforms
  3. Consider cost – both financial and time.
    • Determine the start-up and management time costs
    • Will students need to purchase equipment, kits, or software?
  4. Technology
    • Software or webtools may need to be approved for use with student records (restricted data).
    • Most vendors provide extensive student and instructor guides
      • Review these carefully so that you know what is required on your part and from the student side
    • Clearly describe how students should request technical assistance
      • Include this in your syllabus and throughout your course information
      • Remind students of the procedure when they begin a new assignment
  5. Set reasonable expectations (including your own).
    • The online environment may require a different way to approach the same learning objective
    • Communicate your expectations and any variations from previous labs may have experienced clearly and consistently to students.
  6. Be patient and flexible.
    • Prepare for the unexpected. It is likely that not everything will go to plan.
      • Identify things that are likely to go wrong and provide students with FAQs describing what they should do
      • What flexibility can you provide in assignments, due dates, and grading criteria?
    • Keep in mind that students may have low bandwidth that could hamper access to video or simulations.

As for help from the Center for Instructional Technology and Training (CITT), the Center for Online Innovation and Production (COIP), or the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE).

Back to Top

Online Simulations

It may become necessary to translate face-to-face laboratory or experiential learning activities to an online environment. In some cases, an online lab simulation can provide significant benefits to students.

Labster and Jove

UF Online has provided with unlimited access to digital resources supporting STEM courses and labs through 2023. Anyone can use these tools in courses and labs of any format, whether those courses/labs are convened on-campus, online or any combination in between. These resources support: biology, physics, math, chemistry, and all fields of engineering.

  1. Labster: Labster is a virtual lab platform that hosts 130 simulated labs based in gamified case studies. Labs take around 45 minutes to complete and allow students to manipulate variables, make mistakes, and analyze resulting data.
  2. JoVE: The Journal of Visualized Experiments, JoVE, is a world-leading producer of video solutions to meet the needs of science students and researchers at all levels and includes a full catalog of engineering resources and a ton more. Visit the UF library guide to JoVE to learn more and get started.

Both of these resources will integrate with Canvas. Visit the UF Online Faculty Resources to learn more!

Keep in mind that “online lab” does not necessarily require a simulation. Custom lab kits can be created in collaboration with a vendor and sold directly to students or through the UF Bookstore. These do need to be approved by Environmental Health and Safety, so it is important to determine your course needs as early as possible.

Online Lab Examples

Back to Top

Lab Simulation Resources

There are free resources available online that allow students to explore, observe, examine, and investigate. Your library subject specialist can help you to help identify resources appropriate for your course.

Chronicle of Higher Education: How to Quickly (and Safely) Move a Lab Course Online

Back to Top


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

UF Instructor Guide Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book