PDF Lab Materials: We Can Do Better

For most students doing post-secondary labs, the PDF is their go-to document for instructions. They print it, they read it as they go, and they record their observations and results in another static file for submission. It’s a pretty straightforward, low-tech way to work, but education isn’t straightforward or low-tech anymore. How can the PDF be updated to better serve and support the hands-on approach taken in 21st century learning, especially in labs?

Here’s what can be gained from providing lab materials in an interactive, digital format:

  • With the right learning system, lab instructions are just as easy to update and change as a PDF. The content and quality of the lab itself doesn’t have to change at all.
  • Moving away from a PDF makes labs much more personalizable. Students can approach the material in a variety of ways, and go more at their own pace.
  • An interactive approach to labs allows students to capture their progress using multimedia tools, and enables teachers and instructors to step in where needed.
  • A variety of media can be added to any step, as well as short assessment pieces at regular intervals. The learning process becomes just as important as the final report.
  • Interactive, digital lab material is accessible from anywhere, anytime, whether a student has their printed instructions and written report with them or not.
  • A non-PDF approach better supports a flipped classroom, and encourages collaboration and communication throughout the process, as opposed to just sharing results at the end of the lab.
  • Students can easily revisit labs later on in their academic careers, or after they’ve graduated. Cloud-based storage is far easier to access and search through than a stack of PDFs.

Every lab should be a rich learning experience, and proving an updated version of materials and instructions can help instructors to truly engage their students and allow them to get the most of the process.

For more information on how you can go beyond PDF lab material, visit Infinite Octopus.

Amy Leask is VP of Enable Education and Communications Manager of Infinite Octopus.