Many lab courses require specialized software, hardware, and/or other materials that may become inaccessible to faculty and students in the event that in-person classes are suspended unexpectedly. How can you move forward with lab activities in the case that your lab course needs to be taught online for a period of time?

This blog post provides additional suggestions for course continuity, tailored specifically for lab courses. We also suggest reviewing the general guidance for remote teaching provided in the Academic and Course Continuity guide, related to using course technologies and best practices for communicating with students, setting expectations, and more.


Running Lab Activities Online

  • Identify which of your lab activities can be delivered online. For example, orientation/pre-lectures and demonstrations of techniques can be recorded in Panopto and delivered in Canvas. Students can be asked to familiarize themselves with procedures. Peer learning can be done asynchronously with Canvas discussion forums, or synchronously via Zoom.
  • Provide students with raw data to analyze. If your course involves data collection and analysis, consider walking your students through/demonstrating the data collection yourself, and then providing your students with data to analyze.
  • Be clear in your expectations, and also flexible. Set clear expectations for the work, but keep in mind that students may require more flexibility and understanding as everyone gets accustomed to new ways of doing things.
  • Access to software. Identify which software your students might currently only have access to on campus-based computers (as opposed to their personal computers), and please provide this info to ITS by filling out this short form. ITS can work with you on software licensing and possible alternatives.
  • Investigate virtual lab options. You may be able to accomplish some lab activities via online simulation. Below, we’ve provided a few options for you to investigate.


Online Labs and Simulations

Lab/Simulation Resources

Extensive, collectively sourced spreadsheet of resources, organized by discipline

Journal of Visualized Experiments

A collection of science lab demo videos for various levels and disciplines including biology, neuro, and psych.

MERLOT Simulation Collection (California State University)

The MERLOT collection of Open Educational Resources includes thousands of free simulations on a broad range of topics. The database is searchable by keyword, and each item in the collection provides details including material type, authorship, brief description, peer review rating, and user rating.


Curated list of online lab lessons and resources

ChemCollective (joint project from NSF, Carnegie Mellon, and NSDL)

Free, online chem lab simulations for topics including Stoichiometry, Thermochemistry, Equilibrium, Acid-Base Chemistry, Solubility, Oxidation/Reduction and Electrochemistry, Analytical Chemistry/Lab Techniques

MIT Open Courseware Digital Lab Techniques Manual Videos

Free videos from MIT’s Digital Lab Techniques Manual Description for the web site: “The “Digital Lab Techniques Manual” is a series of videos designed to help you prepare for your chemistry laboratory class. Each video provides a detailed demonstration of a common laboratory technique, as well as helpful tips and information. These videos are meant to supplement, and not replace, your lab manual and assigned reading. In fact, you will most benefit from watching the videos if you have already read the appropriate background information. To be a great experimentalist, you must understand both theory and technique!”

PhET Interactive Simulations (University of Colorado – Boulder)

Free online simulations and teaching activities for Physics, Chemistry, Math, Earth Science, and Biology (site has simulations for all grade levels; link takes you to simulations designed for university students)


Fee-based service that will work with faculty to create custom online and hands-on lab kits for your course

Hands-On Labs

Fee-based service that will work with faculty to create custom online and hands-on lab kits for your course


We looked at continuity sites from Indiana University, Pepperdine University, University of Maryland – College Park and Washington State University for help in creating this post. Thank you to those folks for the inspiration!