Case Study How to Design Accessible & Engaging Hands On Science Labs

How to Design Accessible & Engaging Hands On Science Labs


Chester, VA


2-year Public, Medium



Established in 1967, Brightpoint Community College, formerly John Tyler Community College, is a public Virginia community college with two campus locations, serving more than 9,000 students. Brightpoint offers 17 associate degrees, 36 certificate programs, and 18 online programs, including Associate of Science degrees in health sciences, biology, chemistry, physics, pre-med, pre-dentistry, and environmental science.

Focused on providing an accessible, high-quality online science laboratory experience to meet the needs of its student population, instructors in Brightpoint’s chemistry department used Science Interactive to deliver an authentic lab experience that powers more engaging online science courses.

Expanding Chemistry Courses to Non-traditional Students Using Online Chemistry Lab Kits

Serving a large rural area with more than ¾ of students enrolled part time and many non-traditional working adults, the College looked to expand the accessibility of its laboratory science courses to students who otherwise might not be able to attend synchronous, on-campus classes. In support of this goal, chemistry instructor Tamara  Blagojevic partnered with Science Interactive to:

  • Provide students with rigorous hands-on lab experiments at home, mirroring the physical lab experience of on-campus courses.
  • Make a complex, often intimidating subject more approachable for students by directly connecting the labs with key course concepts, competencies, and learning outcomes.
  • Build a safe at home laboratory experience that engaged students more deeply than virtual simulations. 

The Benefits

Engaging, Hands-On Chemistry Lab Experiences Online
For online chemistry courses, Professor Blagojevic focused on designing a real-world lab experience online. She was able to select hands-on experiments and lessons from Science Interactive that aligned with her course learning outcomes. She was confident in the quality and rigor because each lab is designed by PhD scientists at Science Interactive, peer-reviewed by instructors who are actively teaching online, and certified by Quality Matters.

Professor Blagojevic wanted to provide her students with the same hands-on opportunities they would have in an on-campus lab. In one of her first labs, students learn to measure density. With Science Interactive, students receive all of the materials they need and detailed instructions on how to perform the experiment. They’re able to conduct the experiment, interpret the data, and prepare calculations using molecular models — all from home. 

Having the ability to use lab grade beakers and measure the liquids gave students a more enriching experience than they would have had through simulation alone. Unlike simulated labs, students have the opportunity to see how mistakes change the course of the experiment, and how to think through solutions. Experiencing labs this way from home also better reinforces the lessons and helps students directly apply course concepts to the real world — making chemistry more relatable and less intimidating.

While students perform the experiments independently from home, Professor Balgojevic sorts them into groups to work through lessons together so that they can collaborate and learn from each other throughout the course. 

“We want our students to walk into a lab one day and recognize what’s on the bench. We want to make complex or intimidating subjects understandable and applicable for students, connecting lessons to the real world. Science Interactive allows us to deliver high-quality online lab experiences that students get excited about and actually learn from.”

Tamara Blagojevic, Adjunct Chemistry Instructor, Brightpoint Community College

Customized Curriculum to Guide Students
Professor Blagojevic’s students complete Science Interactive’s lab safety lessons, before being able to unlock course content. During the initial lesson and throughout, students receive step-by-step instructions for each experiment, guidance on how much time each experiment requires, a full listing of all materials, as well as supporting videos and visuals. Students learn how to properly prepare their lab space, what types of clothing/shoes to wear, how to use the personal protective equipment, best practices for handling all lab equipment and chemicals, and what protocols to follow in case of an emergency.

In addition, Professor Blagojevic is able to ensure that each lab aligns with her course by further customizing the content with additional instructions and prompts for the students, including the addition of more images or videos to guide students. She is also available online during experiments, and walks students through any spills and how to dispose of certain chemicals — providing the same kind of guidance on-campus students experience.

Faster, Easier Lab Grading
Leveraging Science Interactive’s lab management platform, Professor Blagojevic used time-saving features like automatic grading for multiple choice questions, and was able to provide immediate feedback to students.

Students complete and submit their lab reports within the system, including photo uploads of their experiments which Professor Blagojevic sees quickly and easily. Once multiple-choice assignments are graded, Science Interactive’s LMS integration automatically passes all grades back to Canvas, giving her more time to provide constructive feedback to students. She’s also able to monitor student progress and identify students who may be falling behind so she can provide extra guidance to get them back on track.

The high-quality curriculum coupled with a flexible lab management platform and the use of physical lab kits creates the best possible hands-on distance learning environment for students — bridging the learning gap between on-campus and online students.

“Science Interactive — the lessons, platform, and physical lab kits — is the closest you get to providing a valid, rigorous, and elaborate online lab that presents students with nearly everything they would be doing in a classroom lab. The best thing that can happen to chemistry is to be doable online. I couldn’t do this job without it.”

Tamara Blagojevic, Adjunct Chemistry Instructor, Brightpoint Community College