The spread of COVID-19 is impacting instructors and students around the globe. Many institutions are moving classes online with little to no notice. Even with lots of time to prepare, planning quality online instruction is tricky.

In response, we’ve made LabArchives, our remote teaching and learning solution, completely FREE for instructors, TAs and students through July 31st. We’ve got the tools you need to teach remotely and are here to support your transition to online instruction.

Earlier today our Resident Professor, Natalie Stringer, hosted the first webinar in a series of four designed to help you make the switch sans stress. To register for an upcoming webinar follow these links:

Friday,  March 20th, 2020 3:00pm Eastern Daylight Time / 12:00pm Pacific Daylight Time

Monday, March 23rd, 2020 12:00pm Eastern Daylight Time / 9:00am Pacific Daylight Time

Check out our webinar recap below:

Natalie Stringer, LabArchives Resident Professor, has real world experience teaching in the classroom and online. She knows how stressful teaching can be even without the interruption of a global pandemic. A snapshot of her experience:

In this webinar, Natalie discussed tips and tricks from her own online teaching experiences. She also introduced LabArchives and Lab Builder, our library of ready made course content.

Natalie has used technology to engage students in the distance classroom with great success. Her method?

  • Define your goal
  • Learn by building
  • Have fun
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat


What knowledge do you want students to come away with? It’s a simple question and one that’s very important to answer before you begin building a lesson. Once you’ve defined your goal, all you need is a bit of creativity to modify in-person instruction for the online classroom.

A great place to start? Lab Builder, LabArchives library of ready made course content (see below).

Lab Builder is organized into three main content areas – labs, protocols and course packs. The search bar along the top makes it easy to search for content that relates to your course.

When you click into a folder, sub-folders will drop down. These list different disciplines. Click into one and you’ll see sub-disciplines. Click once more and you’ll find content related to each sub-discipline.

All labs, for example, consist of five pages – details, introduction, pre-lab assignment, procedure and post-lab assignment.

If you want to search for labs that have already been adapted for online instruction, simply enter ‘online’ in the search bar. Keep in mind that labs not already modified for online instruction can be modified.

To get started with online instruction, define your goal and then browse Lab Builder to see what content might serve your purpose. You can modify existing content for your unique teaching goals and add your own content to your LabArchives course – we’ll come back to all that later, though.

LEARN BY BUILDING (and have fun, too!)

Natalie found that learning by building was crucial for success especially when her students weren’t right in front of her. Learning by building can happen in many different ways.

Let’s say you want to teach students about stoichiometry online. You’ve found a lab in Lab Builder which is already adapted for online instruction. The learning objectives/goals are defined on the introduction page:

The supplies needed can all be found at home or at the grocery store. In the procedure students are asked to assemble materials, conduct the experiment, record data, complete multiple trials and analyze their findings. Students are actively engaged in every step of the process and must build on each step of the experiment as they go.

Another strategy? Let your students be the builder/teacher. In the past, Natalie had introductory Biology students pick a virus of interest. The students were then asked to build a model of the virus. Each student had to research the viral components, make a plan, find references, build a model and present it to the rest of the class through pictures and online write ups. Natalie showed one of these models in our webinar (see below).

Regardless of subject matter, scaffolding your course in a way that allows you to ‘flip’ the classroom encourages students to take ownership of their learning. Regular benchmarks, meanwhile, keep everyone stay on track.

Some experiments are tricky to conduct outside the lab. In these cases, a bit of creativity goes a long way. If something is difficult to model, have students can draw it or write up the steps they would take in a lab setting. With ownership and creativity, you and your students can start to build an online learning community in no time.


Once you’ve found strategies that work, don’t be afraid to repeat them. The remote classroom needs well defined work flows and expectations in order to run smoothly.

Natalie found, for example, that she worked best in the morning and her students completed most of their work in the evenings. As a result, she made assignments due at midnight the night before she had time available to begin grading. She structured her online labs and assignments the same way each time so that students always knew what to expect.

The LabArchives course manager makes it easy for you to track student engagement. You can view student log in histories and check out their notebooks whenever you’d like. This requires students to stay up to date. Revision histories show the progress of student work (see below).

Consistent work patterns and tracking tools keep instructors and students on the same page, remove guesswork from the equation and keep everyone moving forward at the right pace.


Now that you’ve got some of Natalie’s tips and tricks for online teaching, it’s time to check out LabArchives more closely.

Once you’ve found Lab Builder content that you’d like to use you need to copy this content to your course notebook.

Let’s say you want to use that stoichiometry lab we looked at before. Simply right click the lab folder and select ‘Copy to another notebook…’ then select your course notebook.

Click into your course notebook and you’ll see the lab is now there. From there you can add or remove steps from the lab, further define terms and methods, add images, videos or even audio recordings. Tools like the image annotator (see below) make it easy to upload photos and add labels/diagrams. Simply put, you can completely customize Lab Builder content for your purposes.

You and your students will also have access to free OpenStax digital textbooks via LabArchives. Integrations with learning management systems (Blackboard, Canvas and Moodle) and other educational platforms mean LabArchives works with tools you may already use.

But don’t get too caught up in all the details. We’re here to help you get going and can walk you through how to set up your course. Send us a message at to begin!