5 Ways the HOL Cloud Promotes Academic Integrity

Picture this: a 35-year-old, over-caffeinated biology student sits down at her computer to write up a lab report. She’s just gotten home from her 9-to-5, and knows she only has a couple hours to complete this assignment before picking up her son from hockey practice. Panicking under the time crunch coupled with the pressure to maintain the 3.25 GPA required to keep her scholarship, she starts to look for shortcuts. She opens a new tab, does a quick google search for similar reports, copies, and pastes. 

Setting the Online Stage for Success

This is the sort of scenario many faculty members worry about when switching to an online course. Every professor has had to deal with cheaters, those pesky students that are always looking for ways to bypass the work and get an easy A. With the increased stress today’s college students experience, the temptation to take shortcuts also increases — even for otherwise responsible learners. By relinquishing the control that comes with commanding a face-to-face classroom, educators might be concerned that they are only inviting more opportunities for academic dishonesty.

At HOL, we’ve found the opposite to be true: when you give students more authority over their education, they tend to take more responsibility for their own learning. That said, there will always be those students who look for an out, so we’ve made sure to anticipate those individuals when designing our lessons and experiments. Here are five tools you can use to ensure academic integrity among your students while teaching with the HOL Cloud:

  1. Evaluation Lockout

Each experiment on our platform contains three unique sections: Exploration, Experimentation, and Evaluation. In the Exploration section, a student examines the learning objectives while identifying what they already know and what they don’t yet understand. After conducting the experiment in the second section, they move on to the Evaluation, a final assessment that grades them on what they’ve learned. While a student in the Experimentation section is free to toggle back to the Exploration to review the key concepts of the lab, once a student begins the Evaluation, they will be locked out of the previous two sections. This prevents them from directly looking up answers and ensures that their Evaluation score accurately represents their understanding of the content. 

  1. Lab Kit Codes

Professors always want to know that students are doing their own work, following a hands-on experiment themselves instead of sitting idly by while someone else works through the procedure. So while students in a face-to-face, supervised lab facility generally work with partners or groups, distance-learning students should always be conducting their experiments independently. To ensure that this is the case, we equip every lab kit with a unique code that a student must enter into the HOL Cloud before it allows them to begin the experiment. 

  1. TurnItIn

We encourage educators to utilize TurnItIn, a plagiarism detection program that analyzes student work for unoriginal content. Every time a student submits a lab report, TurnItIn checks it against a database of similar content. According to Marc LaBella, a professor who used HOL to transform Ocean County College into a premier e-learning institution, you can always attribute 50–60 percent of the TurnItIn score to HOL content since the system will pick up on the lab template. But if the TurnItIn report shows up with a significantly higher percentage, you can conclude that the student likely clipped their responses from an outside source.

  1. Uniqueness of Report Score

In addition to using TurnItIn, we encourage educators to safeguard against plagiarism by assigning a score to the originality of a student’s report. All of our rubrics include a “Uniqueness of Report” section, so a professor can assess whether a student’s work is their own or they borrowed from a fellow classmate. Knowing that their grade will be affected if their lab resembles that of one of their peers, students will be encouraged to complete their assignments independently.

  1. Photograph Upload

Throughout the experiment, students are required to upload photographs of themselves conducting the lab. Not only does this prove that they actually did the experiment as opposed to simply clicking through the instructions, it allows the professor to ascertain whether or not the student worked independently. If two students submit photos from the same room and only one kit is visible, the instructor can figure out that they didn’t each conduct their own experiment. 

An unrelated bonus to the photo-upload feature is that it allows professors to see the ways in which conducting experiments at home benefits their students. LaBella said that in the photos submitted by older students, he often can see the students’ children looking on in awe as their parents make scientific discoveries. “Younger kids love to watch their parents learning,” he said. “It’s a uniqueness of the fact that they’re doing the labs at home.”

Be The First To Teach GOB Chemistry Labs Completely Online!

General, organic, and biochemistry is a new chemistry discipline that has been gaining quick popularity. As the leading provider of distance lab kits, we had to jump on this new exciting adventure. Since distance and online education is growing every year, we want to ensure that the right products are out there for educators to complete their mission. GOB chemistry is a discipline that is specifically modeled for students that are non-chemistry majors, and that is exactly what we had in mind when forming our kits.

While we still offer our chemistry kits, the GOB chemistry kits specifically teach this target audience, with an emphasis on students majoring in health sciences. We have changed our chemistry curriculum and language around to be perfect for a one or two semester course for students that are not STEM oriented and don’t need to get into the “nitty gritty” of chemistry.

With 32 unique lab lessons offered, GOB students will learn about:

  • Performing measurements using a graduated cylinder, volumetric flask, and other instruments.
  • How molecules are modeled with Lewis Dot Structures and VSEPR models.
  • How ionic and molecular compounds are named.
  • Concepts surrounding the mole.
  • The classification of alcohols and other properties.
  • And much more!

We are incredibly excited about this new kit and curriculum for chemistry professors and instructors!

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.

Are Online Sciences Classes Effective?

Distance and online education is growing. In the Fall of 2016, there were over 6 million students taking at least one online course. Clayton Christensen, a business professor at Harvard University, believes that as many as half of American universities will close in the next two decades due to competition from online and distance education. Outside of the classroom, more and more college students are avoiding  academic advising in a face-to-face setting. As there is a greater push for distance education, it raises the question of whether or not these kinds of classes are as effective as a traditional college setting.

Since distance and online education are relatively new topics, or at least new to mainstream popularity, there isn’t an enormous amount of research on this topic. However, there are a few early studies, which suggest online education is as effective, if not more, than a traditional education.

A recent survey conducted by the Learning House asked 1,500 students who engaged in online education their thoughts on their experiences. From this survey, 86% of the respondents thought that the degree they received was equal or greater in value than the tuition they paid. So from a student perspective, it has a good return on investment! Furthermore, 85% of the respondents thought that their online education was as good as or better than a traditional setting. Looking at this, students clearly value online education.

However, just because students perceivably like online more traditional, it does not mean it is necessarily a better education. Luckily, there are a few studies which can clue us in on this, as well. A study done in 2004 at the University of Connecticut found that students taking food safety courses in a distance setting did as well as students in the traditional setting. This was determined by looking at performance from students in both groups, while also looking at factors like time spent studying, language barriers, etc. Furthermore, research done by professors at MIT, Harvard, and China’s Tsinghua University, found that students taking massive open online courses (MOOC) learn just as much as students in a traditional setting, regardless of their prior knowledge of the material.

So far the signs look pretty good for the effectiveness of online classes. However, Teachnology brings up a fair point when considering the effectiveness of online education. Education is a give-and-take experience. Many students will get out of it what they put in. This is true in a traditional format, as well as a distance format. A lazy student in a traditional setting may not do much better in an online or distance setting. However, there are also many different learning styles depending on the person. For some, a traditional education may be better for their learning need, while for others online education is an obvious choice.

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.

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!

What is the HOLCloud?

The future of education is in accessible technology. In 2016, public schools in the United States were already spending over $3 billion per year in creating and providing digital content to students. Clay Christenson, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, believes that as much as half of American universities run the risk of closure or bankruptcy due to competition from distance and digital education alternatives. Paired with the rising costs in traditional college education in the United States, students are certainly already looking for alternatives.

This is why we developed our cloud platform. We can see that the future is in accessible technology, and we want to help universities get there. Hands-On Labs has always been devoted to distance education and developing a great curriculum for students and professors to reach their goals. Originally, we would deliver our labs through hard copy documents and PDFs. However, now we fully embrace a digital platform!

“Essentially, the HOLCloud is an online delivery mechanism for our curriculum,” says Dr. Duane Cagle, our on-site scientist and product solutions consultant, “we developed the cloud in the summer of 2016, and instructors couldn’t be happier with results.”

What Does HOLCloud Look Like?

The HOLCloud on the student side is incredibly straight forward. When students login, they will have a dashboard for their course, which will display the pre-requisites and lessons. All lessons are locked until the prerequisites are completed and the student has received their lab materials to enter in their kit code.

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

Edcor: V-Scopes Bring Science to Life and Help Students Save Money

HOL Virtual Microscope Example

V-Scopes are designed to replicate the experience of using an actual microscope through virtual controls that allow students to focus, manipulate slides, and change magnification in real time, according to Marc LaBella, Associate Professor of Biology/e-Learning Lecturer at Ocean County College. Additionally, any difficulties that students might encounter, such as regulating light or centering a specimen in their field of view, are also part of this virtual microscope experience.

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.