5 Ways to Supplement Your Online Class

A question we hear frequently from instructors that use our materials is how to best supplement their online classes. They have the lectures online and the lab kits, but what are additional ways to engage their students? Our resident scientist and pedagogy genius, Dr. Duane Cagle, weighs in on 5 ways to supplement your courses:

  1. Video content

Students learn better when you give them video. Video gives students more context and visualization on different concepts and allows them to come away with more information. Especially when you are teaching lab science, showing will always be better than telling, and video allows us to tell.

  1. Peer interaction among students

Allowing your students to interact with their labs could greatly improve their learning outcomes. While this is difficult in a distance learning course, video calling platforms- like Skype- make is easy for remote students to interact. When students interact, it gives them a chance to vocalize and understand their data at a deeper level. Furthermore, it allows students to teach each other different concepts, thus solidifying their understanding.

  1. LMS Integration

Giving your students a seamless learning environment will cut down on frustration and give students the chance to focus on what really matters: learning. Luckily our HOLCloud platform can integrate with all the most popular Learning Management Systems.

  1. Newsletters

Keeping your information relevant is important. A lot of instructors and professors write newsletters that update students on news relating to topics discussed in class. For example, if you are teaching students about genetics, a news article about new developments in CRISPR could keep students’ interest.

  1. Linking your lab material and lecture material

“A challenge for a lot of students taking science is relating to the information presented,” says Duane Cagle, our resident scientist. If you have a lecture attached with your lab course, you need to ensure that the two are relating. It will only be confusing for students if the two seem disconnected.

digital education

Is Distance Learning the Future of Education?

We live in a world that is constantly changing. Nothing today seems to be the same as ten years ago. Education is not excluded from this. But where is education headed? I think the direction is obvious: digital and distance.

Let’s make a distinction between the two, quickly. While Hands-On Labs is digital and distance learning, not all digital education is distance, and not all distance education is digital. For example, before the summer of 2016, HOL was only distance. We didn’t have a digital platform that assisted in student learning, but instead packaged our kits with documents and PDFs. On the flip side, there are plenty of ways in which physical classrooms incorporate digital elements into their teaching. This is sometimes called “digital technology in the classroom (DTC)”.

While it is possible to have distance learning without digital, I think it is needless to say that the most effective distance education programs will be incorporated into the digital landscape. So even if there is a difference between digital and distance, we should visualize distance as also meaning digital. However, not all digital has to be distance.

With this, will distance learning be the future of education?

To answer this question, we should think about who distance learning benefits the most:

  1. Non-traditional students
  2. Younger students
  3. Students on a tight budget

For non-traditional students, the benefits speak for themselves. Attending and going through a traditional college education is incredibly time consuming, and time is something many non-traditional students don’t have. Whether it is because they have a family, a job, etc., distance learning caters to the schedule of the non-traditional student. According to Jenny Jopling, the President of the U.S. Distance Learning Association, “the non-traditional student population has exploded through distance learning.”

For younger students, digital atmospheres are something they know best. As Tyler Wantulok from Pine Cove Consulting puts it, students demand technology in education and younger students are digital natives. People reaching college age today don’t personally remember a world without smartphones, and their expectations are highly digital!

For students on a tight budget, distance learning provides a more affordable option. While some digital education materials can cost close to physical courses, there are a lot of hidden costs in traditional education: room and board within a college town, meal plans, traveling to campus, etc. Digital education eliminates all that needless cost!

Finally, to understand the future of education, we should take a brief look at the recent past of education. Has distance education been growing? Luckily for us, the Babson Survey Research Group has performed phenomenal research in this area in their online learning survey.

student working on computer

According to Babson Survey Research Group’s survey, the percentage of students that are enrolled in some distance education has increased by 3.4% between 2012 and 2016. ‘Some distance education’ meaning the students are enrolled in a mix of traditional courses and distance education courses. According to the same survey, the percentage of students that are enrolled in entirely distance education has increased by 2.3% between 2012 and 2016. Overall, there has been an increase in the usage of distance learning by 5.7% between 2012 and 2016.

In raw number, including both graduate and undergraduate students, there has been an increase of 933,715 students taking distance education courses between 2012 and 2016. In 2016, there was a total of 6,359,121 students that were enrolled in some kind of distance education! Of these students, 68.9% were enrolled in a public institution.

Looking at these numbers, distance education is quite significant in education as a whole, however there is a lot of progress to be made if it will truly be the “future of education”, as traditional students still make up a massive majority in college education.

While there is progress to be made, Clayton Christenson, a professor at Harvard Business School, believes that in the next ten to fifteen years nearly half of American universities will close or go bankrupt due to online education. However, if colleges keep up with the changing winds, they can survive. In the end, only time will tell. The education market is incredibly complicated, and many factors will play into what it looks like in a decade.

hol charity drive banner

Our Holiday Charity Drive!

The holidays are a time for cheer, joy, and giving. Here at the Hands-On Labs office we want to share that spirit with our community, which is the Denver metropolitan area. That is why our product marketer, Kacy Bill, set up our office’s charity drive! Actually, she sets up this charity drive every year!

“I try to pick charitable organizations that are either in our community, or an organization that someone in the office is passionate about,” Kacy explained. “This year we are supporting GOOD Bags, the Humane Society of the South Platte Valley, and the Parker Task Force.”

The office was divided into four separate teams that competed to bring in the most materials/donations for these three organizations. There was no official prize for winning this competition, but the office is quite competitive when it comes to these things so no prize was really needed. Lanier Lopez, a customer support representative and leader of the winning team, had the following to say:

“I have been very fortunate in my life that I have never had to ask anyone for anything. I have always been able to provide for myself and family. There are too many people in our country that are not as fortunate and need assistance. In the end, the basic human needs for anyone can be as simple as getting a good shower or being able to brush your teeth.”

Overall, our charity drive this year was a huge success!

our holiday charity drive collections

Edcor: Hands-On Labs Upgrade Online Learning

Hands-On Labs Chemistry LabPaq

Since 2006, Ocean County College has been designing lab-based biology, chemistry, and physics distance learning courses to include the full complement of offerings in its college catalog, thus making it possible to earn an associate in science degree entirely online.

“Aside from a pedagogically rigorous course construction, the key to the success of our distance learning science courses is the use of Hands-On Learning’s Cloud (Denver Colorado) a virtual platform that serves as a valuable resource for the labs that HOL produces,” said Marc J. LaBella, Associate Professor of Biology, e-Learning. According to LaBella, the Cloud removes the limitation on what learners can access in terms of support materials and is fully integrated into Ocean County College’s existing learning management system, Canvas.

Read the full story on Edcor’s website.

Do You Have the HOLcloud?

Do You Have the HOLcloud?

Reduce the time you spend managing your classes with Hands-On Lab’s cloud-based platform, HOLcloud — the first educational tool ever developed to empower instructors.

Here are a few of the many features you will find in HOLcloud:

  • Auto-grading
  • Built-in analytics
  • Fully configurable
  • Immediate feedback
  • Just-in-Time teaching
  • Live data tables
  • Experiment videos
  • Latest pedagogies
  • ADA and WCAG 2.0 compliance



Interactive Learning Engages Students

HOLcloud has set new standards for delivering engaging online class content. Each course is pedagogically designed to advance students towards achieving intended learning outcomes. Students enjoy the interactive curriculum supported by user-friendly navigation and clear, intuitive instructions. They remain more engaged throughout the course, perform well on assessments, and their positive experience compels future enrollment.


Easy to Use

HOLcloud fully integrates with your current Learning Management System (LMS) through our proprietary tool, LMS Connect. Now you can manage all your classes from one convenient online location – anytime, on any device from anywhere you have internet access.


Powerful, Time-saving Tools

Equipped with features like the Instructor Dashboard and Student Gradebook, you can easily track lessons and assignments for every student. You can even choose to configure experiments and to author or customize lessons. Other instructor-optional features like auto-grading, student performance analytics, and single sign-on will help you monitor student progress while saving you even more hours each week.


All-in-One Solution

In conjunction with the manual found in HOLcloud, the required  lab kits provide students all the laboratory materials needed for the entire course to ensure their success.


Choose from 11 current course disciplines:

  • Allied Health
  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Earth Science
  • Environmental Science
  • Forensic Science
  • Geology
  • Microbiology
  • Physics
  • Science Methods


WCAG 2.0 Compliant

The HOLcloud platform has been designed with institutional needs in mind. We are WCAG 2.0 AA compliant with our interactive digital learning platform, ensuring your class and curriculum meet the Americans with Disabilities Act Federal Regulations.


Get a Free Demo TODAY!


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Today’s Distance Learning Student Needs & Preferences

Today’s Distance Learning Student Needs & Preferences

Online education is one of the largest and fastest growing segments of higher education. Five million online learners are projected to be working towards a degree in the U.S. by 2020. With such a large segment of the student population endeavoring to take some if not all their courses online, it has become vital that colleges and universities understand and embrace the unique set of preferences and needs presented by this learning group.

woman with computer

Since 2012, The Learning House, Inc. and Aslanian Market Research have conducted an annual survey of 1,500 online college students. The goal of these annual Online College Students studies is to help institutions better understand how to serve this specific student population.


The findings contained in their recent study, “Online College Students 2016: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences”, show an increasing demand for distance learning in higher education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Summarized herein are some interesting facts and findings from the 2016 study.


  • An increasing number of students prefer online education. Quality and satisfaction with online classes continues to remain high, with 90% of survey respondents indicating they felt the online class experience was the same or better than their on-ground class experiences. Half of online college students say they definitely would not, probably would not, or are not sure if they would have attended their current program if it were not offered online.


  • Online students are cost sensitive. Tuition remains the driving factor for students when choosing their online classes. Students have seen a decrease in employer-provided tuition assistance, and 44% of students are using personal funds in combination with grants and loans to finance their education.


  • Mobile is widespread throughout the admissions and education process. More than 95% of online students own a mobile device. Phones and tablets are utilized during the college selection process – 51% of enrolled students conducted at least some of their research via a mobile device – as well as for participating in class and completing assignments. Once enrolled, 67% desire to complete at least some of their online learning on a mobile device, with 59% completing at least some of their courses online.


  • The online student demographic is changing. During the last five years, the average age of the online college undergraduate student has decreased from 34 in 2012 to 29 in 2016. Online graduate students’ average age decreased from 35 in 2012 to 33 in 2016. Online learners are likely to be single and have fewer children. They’re also earning less income; since 2013, the percentage of graduate students earning less than $25,000 has more than doubled.


  • Online students prefer a nearby campus. Nearly 75% of students report that, because they’re likely to visit the school campus while enrolled, they selected online courses from a school whose campus is within 100 miles of their home and their campus.


  • There are many paths to a degree. Many online undergrad students have previously earned credits from colleges and universities. They are seeking for these credits to be accepted when enrolling in online courses. Many are also interested in receiving credits based on their life experiences.



Citation: Clinefelter, D. L. & Aslanian, C. B., (2016). Online college students 2016:
Comprehensive data on demands and preferences. Louisville, KY: The Learning House, Inc.


HOL Scholarship Program’s First Semester Was a Complete Success!

HOL Scholarship Program’s First Semester Was a Complete Success!


HOL-scholarship-program2At Hands-On Labs (HOL), we are committed to giving back to the community. We believe that science education should be available to everyone, anytime, anywhere and on any device. Our goal is to make science education accessible to anyone that shares our passion for science! With this in mind, HOL has launched a scholarship program available to students enrolled in any course that uses one of our LabPaqs!

Through this program, scholarship winners were awarded LabPaqs, HOL Science kits.  Selected students demonstrated a passion for science, leadership, and community involvement.

We talked to one of our scholarship recipients to learn about her experience after the end of the semester. Makenly Cole, from Strawberry, Arkansas was awarded a kit thanks to her hunger to learn and her passion for science stemming from childhood. “I always have been science-minded. I wanted to know how things worked and enjoyed pulling things apart and putting them back together,” says Cole.
Cole serves as the president of her Collegiate FFA, and has been accepted as a College of Agriculture and Technology Ambassador for Arkansas State University.

She tells Hands-On Labs that she was very pleased with all the experiments, and appreciated that the kit and lab manual are arranged so well. “There was no guesswork- everything was labeled in individual bags and the experiments are very straightforward,” says Cole.

I really enjoyed all the experiments in my LabPaq. It was completely organized and there was no guesswork. Everything was labeled in individual bags and the experiments are really straightforward.
Another winner, Samuel Gueli, a police officer from Combined Locks, Wisconsin spoke to us about how he wasn’t sure what to expect and that the kit exceeded his expectations.  He also told us about how easy it was to apply, “… 15 minutes could save you 100%! What’s your excuse not too? Is it because “I never win”. Well, I’ve never won anything either (radio contest, fair games, etc..) but I’m glad I took the time because you never know until you try. Now I’m a winner, and you could be too. So be the underdog and apply!”

We are very proud to have given students the opportunity to learn science on their own terms. HOL is changing the way education is taught, conceived, and delivered around the world. Currently, we are taking new applications for Spring 2017. Do you have any students that would be a good fit for our scholarship program? Send them our way! Students can apply at: www.HOLscience.com/scholarship.


Hands-On Labs Presentation

[Upcoming Presentation] Teaching Pre-Nursing Science Courses with Laboratory Delivered Totally Online

Teaching Pre-Nursing Science Courses with Laboratory Delivered Totally Online

Hands-On Labs Presentation

Presentation at OLC Accelerate / Shutterstock

Dr. James Brown, the Godfather of Online Science, will be presenting at OLC Accelerate this Friday, November 18, 2016, in Orlando, Florida. Dr. Brown’s presentation is entitled: “Teaching Pre-Nursing Science Courses with Laboratory Delivered Totally Online.” The presentation will focus on innovative and emerging methods for placing pre-nursing science courses totally online and will include specific challenges inherent in Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology and Chemistry.


Friday November 18, 2016 – 11:45 AM to 12:30 PM

Concurrent Session 12


Presentation abstract

To reach beyond traditional students many nursing programs have turned to online courses to attract students into nursing programs taking many if not all of their non-clinical courses online. This allows potential nursing students who are constrained by time, distance, family or work obligations to complete pre-nursing courses so they can begin a nursing program. The required science courses which typically include Anatomy and Physiology I and II, Microbiology and a basic Chemistry course all include laboratories and require students to attend lectures twice a week as well as a 3 hour laboratory session. This can be prohibitive for students who are working full time jobs, have significant family responsibilities, or have to travel a distance to attend college.

The type of laboratory experience that the online pre-nursing student encounters has become a critical issue with respect to course transferability.  The pros and cons of providing laboratory experiences via virtual laboratories versus by “wet labs” that students can perform in their own homes (and in the case of deployed military, wherever home may be) will be discussed and highlighted. The different modes of delivering online science laboratories and the different strategies involved in face-to-face, hybrid, virtual or remote “wet labs” will be analyzed and summarized. For example, is it better for students to use a real microscope to observe cell structure in anatomy and physiology or a bacterium that they grew up on a petri dish and Gram stained and observed them under oil immersion? Or is it just as good to use a virtual microscope on the computer to simulate a “real” laboratory? There are now many commercially available online labs such as Hands-On Labs, Inc. LabPaq and Lab Bridge, eScience Labs, McGraw-Hill LearnSmart Labs, Glencoe Biology Virtual Laboratory Simulations, Carolina Science Online, science lab simulations with Late Nite Labs, offering a variety of options.

Students are now able to complete online science pre-nursing courses at one college or university in another part of the country and transfer them into a traditional nursing program to complete their nursing degree. Many nursing programs now offer everything but clinical experience totally online and the availability of the online pre-requisite science courses has helped make this a reality. Online science courses have allowed certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, or associate degree nurses to advance their nursing education to the next level while working full time.

Lastly, the factors that are relevant for course transfer, assessment, student success and accreditation will be addressed with respect to the overall evaluation of the online science laboratory courses.


Presenter: James Brown, Kean University

James-Brown- BOA for Hands-On LabsDr. James Brown is a pioneer in online course development in science. He has been dubbed the “Godfather of Online Science” and recently has been designated One of the Top 40 Innovators in Education by the Center for Digital Education. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. in microbiology from the Waksman Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers University and an additional M.S. in Health Sciences from New Jersey City University. His is a former director of microbiology for Roche and an Assistant Commissioner of Health for New Jersey overseeing the Division of Public Health and Environmental Laboratories. He is a former dean of Science, Engineering, Health Sciences and Human Performance for Ocean County College that became an East-coast powerhouse for online science course development with over 14 unique online science courses. He is president of James W. Brown Associates LLC which develops online science courses for colleges and universities with a special focus on the pre-nursing science courses of Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology and Chemistry which are all designed using Hands-On Labs LabPaqs and LabBridge as the foundation for the laboratory experience. He developed the Online Science Laboratory Series for the Sloan Consortium (now named the Online Learning Consortium) in the Spring of 2014 which helps train science faculty and instructional designers in how to develop online courses in science. Dr. Brown teaches science totally online at California State University at San Marcos, Colorado Christian University, American Public University, Unitek College, City University of New York and Gwynedd Mercy University.

Annual Western Governors University All-Staff Meeting

HOL had the honor of exhibiting at WGU’s Summer Academic Meetings in Salt Lake City.  We had a great time getting to know the course mentors, and program development team! Here are a few highlights from the meetings.