Labs & Experiential Learning

Incorporating practical and experiential learning opportunities for online learners will allow them to learn by doing and to apply course content online. This page offers tips and examples of activities and applied methods to promote experiential learning for online learners.


  • Incorporate a course project or practicum to demonstrate ability to apply course content and learnings.
  • Create scenario-based discussion forums to interact and share experiences. These discussions should require learners to make connections between course content and personal experiences.
  • Incorporate mini-cases and real-world application scenarios into homework assignments.
  • Have learners observe a recording of a simulation or lab and comment on their observations.
  • Incorporate reflection exercises along with applied learning activities to measure critical thinking skills and depth of understanding.
  • Incorporate online simulations to allow learners to explore different solution paths to a problem.
  • Assign offline learning activities with a debrief to other learners in the course (e.g., use breakout rooms in Zoom and then reconvene).


Form Teams Intentionally

Before forming online groups or project teams, consider polling your learners to determine their time zones and working styles to most effectively match learners.

Establish Weekly Check-ins

Since many labs and design courses involve team-based work, set up individual Zoom check-in sessions with each group to answer questions and assess their progress.

Ask Your Learners to Prepare

Provide your learners with clear expectations regarding pre-work and preparation prior to the synchronous session. This will help ensure the hands-on, in-class applications are efficient and effective.

Utilize On-campus Laboratory Resources

If you or a lab worker are able to live stream video from a laboratory, consider asking learners to synchronously direct the person in the lab to conduct an experiment.

Consider Kitchen Table Experiments

If you and your learners are unable to conduct experiments in a lab, consider conducting or assigning “kitchen table” experiments using simple, easily-accessible components. Before assigning such experiments, be sure to determine the cost of materials, availability, and accessibility.

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