The OpenSTEMLabs

Facts, figures and videos about the OpenSTEMLabs

Two short videos explain our approach and introduce a few of our extensive resources:

The OpenSTEM Labs summary (30 s) 
The OpenSTEM Labs backstory (6 mins)

The OpenSTEM Labs project aims to challenge the traditional university STEM pedagogical model of students and teachers being co‑located in a lab, during office hours. Our new paradigm is now an important component of The Open University’s distance learning environment. The OpenSTEM Labs connects students to state‑of‑the‑art instrumentation and equipment for practical enquiries over the internet, where distance is no longer a barrier and where access to equipment can be available 24 hours a day. Students and teachers access the equipment via a web browser through which they can book an online session, undertake the experiment/activity, send real‑time control commands, monitor real-time performance and download data for subsequent analysis.

Core values

The core values of the OpenSTEM Labs are:

  • Inclusivity: accessible at any time from any place by anyone.
  • Pedagogy: individual and group working is enabled in the context of student-led or 
tutor‑led enquiries that are interactive and collaborative.

  • Veracity: real data from real equipment in real‑time

  • Authenticity: the labs feature bespoke teaching tools, industrial grade equipment and research grade instruments, each in their home environment

Facilities (2018)

The following facilities form the real‑time interactive ‘hands‑on’ parts of the OpenSTEM Labs:

  • 80 workstations for experiments in electronics and control
  • 7 programmable collaborative robots
  • 7 analytical chemistry instruments
  • 2 scanning electron microscopes
  • 2 optical microscopes
  • 2 optical telescopes at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias on Tenerife and 1 radio
telescope in Milton Keynes
  • 1 enclosed ‘Mars landscape’ and remote controlled, multi-user Mars rover
  • 1 flow-chemistry reactor
  • 2 particle detector cameras
  • 1 satellite ground station and a component of satellite payload on board Algerian-UK
 cube-sat, Alsat Nano
  • 1 studio lab for livestreaming of experiments and demonstration lectures

....with further instruments and activities being brought on line through the coming year. 


Access to the apparatus must be booked and is available to Open University students on specific STEM modules, and to approved users outside the OU by arrangement (email OpenSTEM).


Primarily the OpenSTEM Labs are for The Open University’s own students following higher education qualifications. There is provision for use by other educational institutions including high schools and by industrial trainers – this is an important component of the sustainability model as the OpenSTEM Labs’ assets are maintained by their use in the OU curriculum, but our equipment must earn its replacement value through enterprise activity. The operating model allows higher resource utilization than is normally the case for university teaching labs.


  • To provide practical facilities that enable interactive and collaborative learning of STEM subjects.

  • To achieve an inclusive approach to practical work without requiring students, facilitators/educators to be co-located in laboratories and observatories.

  • To enable students to learn through remote interactions with real equipment.
To expose students to a range of practical equipment and tools in a realistic setting.

  • To increase utilization of teaching lab resources. 
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