Labs & Projects

Preparing for In-Person Instruction

Updated August 24, 2020


For an overview of course prioritization, see Classroom Considerations.


Recommended Tools

See the latest recommendations for hybrid lab and project-based course design, including:

Getting Started

Review the learning objectives of your course and critically evaluate which must be done in person, and which can be accomplished using activities that are possible to be done remotely.

Remote Activities

  • Students view recorded equipment/process demonstrations and receive data for analysis
    • Requires that the demonstrations and data be prepared ahead of time. 
  • Online students synchronously direct a worker in the lab to conduct an experiment and receive the data for analysis
    • Requires synchronous streaming from the laboratory. Should be tested before to course to ensure that it’s feasible.
  • Simulation and modeling to generate data 
    • Requires that students have access to the software.  CAEN is working to make this happen using remote resources as much as possible.
    • Use of CAEN labs for instruction can be requested, but in-person occupancy can be expected to be very limited.
  • Kitchen table experiments to generate data
    • Cost, availability, and accessibility should be considered.

Lower Density Activities

  • Repurposing classrooms for workspace or dry lab activities
    • May not be suitable for all lab activities.
    • Determine if staff are needed to monitor activities.
  • Adding sections (evenings and weekends)
    • Students would need to reregister.
    • Additional staffing may be needed for extra sections.
    • Room availability may be limited.

General Recommendations

  • Put specific components online: Labs or projects often require particular procedures or hands-on work by the group. When that is not possible, find online videos or record your own demonstrations to connect students with simulations, and post them to Canvas.
  • Provide raw data for students to analyze: In a case where students need to collect and analyze data, you can demonstrate how to collect it online, then provide them with a raw set of data to analyze on their own. This allows them to practice the data analysis phase themselves until they can return to campus.
  • Use remote lab software for simulations: Online simulations can provide a similar experience to being hands-on in the classroom. For example, using Kaltura to screen-record your work on a CAEN remote lab connection can create useful videos to upload to Canvas, and provide students with a structure for engagement with the work.
  • No cost software access for students: In the event that specific lab software is not available remotely, first contact CAEN to see if equivalent or alternative off-campus access can be accommodated. Also consider that while it is not always possible for students to have Engineering software installed on personal computers, CAEN does work with vendors on providing no-cost software for students, and may be able to help on a shortened deadline.
  • Promote alternate communication tools: The use of chat tools or discussion boards such as Canvas Discussions or Google Meet allow for easy remote interaction of students working on data analysis or group project planning.

Pre-record Lab Demonstrations or Project Instructions

  • Review the available options: Many tools are described on the Lectures page of this site.
  • Consult with your department: Your departmental IT support staff may have recommendations on options that are best practices for your course’s lab or project group activities.
  • Make the allowed options known: Select the specific tools that suit both you and your students, and communicate so everyone knows what is expected to be used.

Hands-on Learning Outside the Lab or Classroom

  • Record techniques and experiments: These may not need to be as formal as full lecture recordings, and could be done on a smartphone, enabling quick upload to a Canvas course site’s “Media Gallery” for student viewing (and future use).
  • Lab software simulations: If a lab experiment or project involves the use of Engineering software, make sure the students are aware of remote access to CAEN lab services. Also, contact a CAEN consultant to ensure it is licensed to be accessed remotely.

Remote Group Work & Presentations

  • Remind students they have access to a variety of document/file sharing and video conferencing services at U-M, which can support their remote group discussions.
  • Make sure to recommend the option(s) that you want them to use, if necessary.

Graduate Student Instructor Support

One consideration for lab courses or projects is the role of Graduate Student Instructors (GSI) in supporting student learning. Factoring the GSI into your plans when appropriate, and strategizing about how best to support them, can assist with students completing their work. In a remote environment, the role of a GSI may shift, for example:

  • Being included in more grading and admin duties, or chat monitoring
  • Helping to capture video, or obtain data for student analysis
  • Assisting in leading online-based discussions, or moderating office hours
  • Holding virtual lab sessions, where they guide students as they perform data analysis

Remote Access to CAEN Lab Services

CAEN provides Engineering students and faculty with remote access to software and online file storage via two main services to support instructional and course-related work. The Windows Remote Desktop Service grants off-campus access to the CAEN Lab Software Environment (CLSE) for Windows, and the Linux Login Service provides access to the CLSE for Linux. Both services include access to online file storage, which can be accessed via direct network connection from a personal computer.

Note that some software applications may not be accessible from off-campus locations due to vendor licensing restrictions, and certain methods of connecting to online file storage may require use of the U-M VPN service.

Additional Campus Resources