Online Chemistry Courses with Lab Components: How Do They Work?

A physical science, chemistry is often required by many college degree programs. Online education allows students to complete coursework in this field remotely while fulfilling lab requirements either on campus or at home. Explore the online learning methods for various chemistry classes.

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Overview of Online Chemistry Courses

Students interested in taking chemistry online can find such distance learning options at two-year community colleges as well as four-year universities. Some online courses in this area of study may be offered to satisfy general education degree requirements or undergraduate major coursework. In other cases, these classes may be provided to distance learners who aren't seeking college credit but just want to build their chemistry knowledge; options like this are often delivered through schools' continuing education departments or open access programs.

Many online chemistry courses combine coursework with mandatory lab work designed to provide students with hands-on experience. Colleges integrate required assignments or lessons - typically delivered virtually in an asynchronous manner - with online or on-campus lab assignments. Proctored examinations may also be required, which could take place on campus or at an approved facility in the student's area.

Lab Components

Student who select a hybrid or blended learning format combine online coursework with on-campus lab work, which is arranged through the college. Entirely online classes allow students to complete mandatory lab work through virtual exercises and/or at-home activities. Lab work typically covers key chemistry concepts and gives distance learners an interactive way to understand the material.

Online lab assignments are completed by logging on to a school's virtual classroom environment to view lessons, introductory material and instructions for the lab experiment or activity. When working on virtual labs, students use online simulations, often featuring a click and drag interface, while logging the observations and results.

For hands-on labs conducted at home, online chemistry students may be required to purchase lab kits from their schools. These items typically contain lab manuals, activity supplies and safety equipment. Class message boards or chat rooms may be available to allow students and instructors to discuss the activities and reinforce the material.


Basic PC skills, Internet access, e-mail and routine hardware and software are required to participate in an online program. Coursework is typically completed in an asynchronous manner, which enables the student to attend class at a convenient time and location. The online lab website is usually compatible with both PCs and Macs. Depending on the version of the web browser, additional free software may need to be downloaded from the lab's website.

Online Chemistry Course Topics

While the majority of online chemistry classes focus on general and organic chemistry, additional educational alternatives are available that explore other chemistry related topics. Some of the other topics that may be covered in online chemistry curricula include the following:

  • Inorganic chemistry
  • Environmental chemistry
  • Technology and energy resources
  • Computer applications for chemistry
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