While running labs and demonstrations online may seem challenging, when designed with care, asynchronous labs and demonstrations have the potential to increase engagement with and understanding of content. It is necessary to reimagine the lab in new and creative ways while ensuring that the learning objective are achieved. When considering how to conduct labs asynchronously, consider the possibilities.


Video is an effective way for students to observe and analyze a lab or demonstration. When developing labs through video, remember that students may not be able to recreate the lab or demonstration in their own home. Therefore, thoroughly talk through your demonstration step by step so that students can easily follow along and observe the process. Providing a guide for note taking is useful for students to follow the steps.

MacVideo is an excellent option for creating videos as it has a feature to embed quiz questions that students answer as they watch the video, fostering engagement and attention. It is also possible to record videos using Echo 360 and Zoom, which are both McMaster supported tools.

Read more about some of the benefits of using video in labs and tips for how to create a good one in this article How to Use Video to Support Science Experiments.

Simulations and Online Games

Simulations and online games are a useful and engaging option for students, and they can also achieve learning objectives. In fact, interactive virtual environments increase contextual and emotional involvement with learning and inherently require participation, resulting in greater engagement with topics (Aldrich, 2009). PhET interactive simulations by the University of Boulder has a repository of free simulations for physics, chemistry, math, earth sciences, and biology classes to engage and add interactivity to asynchronous labs.

Nearpod is another platform to design engaging and interactive lessons, which can be completed as a group or student paced. In Nearpod, slides can be animated, there are options for collaboration, and it can access third-party sites and tools such as PhET, VR field trips, and BBC video. To see an example of some of the features of Nearpod, click here.

Lab Kits

If time and budget allow, consider building lab kits that can be sent to or picked up by students so that they can recreate labs at home. The kit should include all the necessary equipment and instructions so that students can successfully and safely complete the lab at home. When developing for this option, keep in mind that students’ access to space to complete labs may vary. That said, this is a great option to ensure that students practice hands-on skills and techniques.

Real Life Case Studies

Case studies are a useful alternative to hands-on labs and demonstrations. Case studies that use real life examples can be an effective option for asynchronous learning. Kreber (2001) explains case studies: “The ultimate task is to use one’s theoretical knowledge in the field and apply it to the ‘real’ life situation,” and she argues that, when designed to encourage problem solving, they can effectively engage students in experiential learning. Asking interesting and relevant questions, requiring students to make predictions, and encouraging collaboration and discussion on Avenue to Learn can enhance the case study activity.

Convert the Lab to a Module on Avenue to Learn

Labs can also be transformed into modules on Avenue to Learn. When designing a lab module on A2L, keep the learning objectives top of mind. Include video, text, and external links to engage and interest students. Including a short quiz at the end of the lab module will ensure that students have completed the lab and met the learning objectives. To make the module more engaging, consider incorporating H5P into content pages. An example H5P activity is below.

For more tips on running asynchronous labs and demonstrations, check out the links below:

  1. Remote Lab Strategies
  2. Strategies for Remote Labs – Arizona State University


Aldrich, C. (2009). Online Learning with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds. Jossey-Bass.

Kreber, C. (2001). Learning Experientially through Case Studies? A Conceptual Analysis. Teaching in Higher Education, 6(2), 217-228.



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Blended Teaching: A Guide for Applying Flexible Practices during COVID-19 by Paul R. MacPherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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