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Introducing The OpenSTEM Labs

Growing intakes of STEM students and the high cost of laboratory provision for face-to-face teaching can be a real challenge for providers of STEM education.

If like many institutions, you need to find new ways to provide practical learning to increase your capacity, The Open University can help.

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The Open University’s OpenSTEM Labs allow students to conduct practical experiments in science and engineering through online distance learning. They offer a range of authentic virtual activities using real data that can be accessed from a PC or mobile device, building your students’ skills for their scientific career.

Students can choose when and where to learn as they build their practical knowledge and expertise independently, without supervision and without having to be on campus.

The online labs are scalable and can be rolled out to your students via your Virtual Learning Environment – helping you lead the way in the digital transformation of your learning delivery.

Benefits of the OpenSTEM Labs approach

  • Provides consistent, convenient and flexible distance learning for large student cohorts
  • Simple, cost-effective implementation of online practical learning to supplement your existing offering
  • Flexible delivery allows students to undertake practical work at a time and location that is convenient to them
  • Students can repeat experiments as often as they wish to consolidate their learning
  • Can be used for formal and informal learning at various levels from post-16 to university study
  • Developed by experienced academics specifically for distance learning
  • Already used successfully by Open University students for more than five years

What is available?

We are currently offering a subset of our OpenSTEM Lab activities to other institutions and are regularly adding new activities to our offering.

Life Science

  • Investigating Pax-induced gene expression in muscle cells
  • Fluorescence imaging
  • Studying evolution in the laboratory – Drosophila selective sweep
  • Analysing gene expression – Western blotting
  • Rat training laboratory – Shaping animal behaviour to study sustained attention
  • Microbiology of water
  • Quantitative PCR analysis
  • Quantitative HPLC laboratory
  • Mendel Peas

Health Science

  • Creatinine clearance
  • ELISA – detecting antibodies against SARS-Cov-2
  • Quantitative PCR analysis
  • Quantitative HPLC laboratory


  • Arrhenius equation
  • Chemical equilibrium
  • Chemical Kinetics
  • A model cobalt complex for oxygen uptake

If we tried to do this in real life, students would have to come in every day for two weeks to achieve the same ends. We don’t have the facilities to do that. You couldn’t make a reasonable cost-benefit for the learning. With an OpenSTEM Lab, we can complete the whole experiment in one 90-minute session. It is ideal.

Dr Eleanor Dommett
Kings College London

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