Teaching Continuity: Labs, Field Experiences, Seminars and Studios

Course disruption can be especially challenging when there are labs, field experiences, seminars, and studios involved. This page outlines some resources and ideas to get you started with thinking through how you might approach the task.


When looking at a substitute for labs, Harvard University’s Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning prompts instructors to think about the purpose of the lab. This site provides suggestions for labs that strengthen students’ skills in interpreting experimental data, labs that focus on project-based lab research, and those designed to enhance learning techniques and their application to specific experimental situations. Brightspace includes additional information.

Some of their suggestions are summarized below:

Lab techniques and application to specific experimental situations

  • Record a person or small group conducting the experiment. Have student make a prediction before viewing the recording and writing up a lab report.
  • Some textbooks have interactive lab-based resources that you may be able to use.
  • If students need to identify samples, locate high-quality photos to use in an online quiz.
  • For hand skills such as slide preparation, record a video with someone demonstrating the technique improperly. Students describe what the technician is doing right and wrong.
  • Online simulations might be possible, and you may be able to find some free simulations online. Explore the following resources:
  1. LabXchange has lab simulations on basic molecular biology techniques, including some simulations from PHET and the Concord Consortium.
  2. MERLOT also has virtual labs in a variety of disciplines.

Interpreting experimental data

  • Have students work with a data set (for example, from an academic article) similar to what they would see in the lab and answer problem sets based on interpretation of the data.
  • Add questions relating to experimental protocols at intervals throughout the process to prompts students to think about the reasons why procedures are performed that way.

Project-based lab research

If students have been working on projects since the beginning of the term, consider a capstone assignment such as a final paper, presentation, or digital poster. Students could describe the data they have collected up until the course disruption or predict the results of the experiment. Sections of a paper could focus on further hypothesis building and predictive data analysis. Online presentations or posters could be done using Zoom, or posted to the discussion board as a PowerPoint presentation.

Virtual Labs in STEM Disciplines

This spreadsheet has links to freely-available online clinicals and labs, with a brief description of each one. 

List of online simulations and virtual labs for STEM (Google Drive)

Field experiences

When field experiences are disrupted, consider what might be beneficial for student learning with an alternative approach. You also need to consider what is feasible, reasonable, and safe for students. Brightspace includes some suggestions at this site (https://community.brightspace.com/s/article/Tips-for-moving-your-in-person-class-online-and-still-have-an-awesome-student-learning-experience ), which are summarized below.

  • Students may be able to visit the site themselves. Provide them with a field experience guide that outlines essential information and assignment guidelines. Students record their experiences with photos or a video. ·
  • Record yourself at the site, highlighting important aspects of the field experience. Students write their observations and/ or discuss the recording on the discussion board.
  • It may be possible for students to do a virtual field trip. This site includes a ton of apps and websites. Again, you may want to provide a virtual field trip guide with questions and prompts for student observations.

Related content

Teaching Continuity Essentials


Teaching Continuity Checklist