Inspiration for hands-on labs - there's got to be another way!

Sitting here planning for hands-on labs where students are to install a network surveillance camera on a simple network - I realize my head is completely empty and I am very close to going down a really boring path by providing them a step-by-step guide on how to solve the problem with colorful screenshots and all....
However, there MUST be more fun ways of exploring to learn. One way could obviously be to simply state what they should do, show them the components they need and let them work it all out by themselves, but then I run the risk of "loosing" some students.
Therefore, I am thinking about printing the lab on two pages: Page one - task and limitations and a brief explanation stating that if it's all greek - turn to page two.
Page two - the oh so booring step by step guide.....
Any advice or suggestions are received with gratitude!

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Keep the colourful screenshots and use them as a handout / reference guide after the session.

Give them the components and a "very general" guide to the components what they are for and what they need to do with them. i.e.

a. You will be required to install the software
b. You will need storage to save the files somewhere
c. You should attach the components to allow the system to work correctly

Let them work the rest out for themselves, maybe even giving them websites or other resources to visit for hints and tips or explanations if you have any available whilst writing their own guide either individually or in groups.

Compare their guide and your guide at the end of the session allowing for a good Q&A session to iron out the difficulties experienced, suggestions and how they tackled or overcame these.
Your idea of showing them the components and letting them work it out sounds fun for the activists amongst your delegates but stressful for the reflectors! Maybe if time permits allow them to have a go in small teams with brief, colourful instructions? Maybe use a jigsaw puzzle build up graphic instead of linear notes?
I like the jigsaw idea Margaret. Runar, does your authorware permit a drag and drop game? Similar to the jigsaw idea - provide minimal but essential info up front and then drag the right component in the right order to complete the installation, and keep trying till you get it right.
Have you thought of using simulations? I have developed many simulations which give students a hands-on approach to using software. There are many advantages to this:
i) Learners do not need to have the software environment available or access to a live system
ii) Simulations can be exploratory, demonstrative or a combination of the two
iii) Learners can be assessed
iv) Learners are actually 'doing' and interacting with a simulated environment - this results in much deeper learning

I would recommend Captivate for its ease of use, price and capabilities.
You may have done this by now, but here are a few thoughts. I don't think there is any problem with what you are suggesting - colourful screenshots with clear instructions are fine - they can also be provided as a download. But you just need to think about scaffolding the learning. In other words, what is the 'hook' to engage people? Why is it important to them and why should they spend time learning this? I'm not sure where you work but maybe a short podcast from someone the students respect to introduce the session. Then you can intersperse the screenshots with some opportunities to try the steps themselves - and, at the end, get students to commit to using their learning soon after - but with the reassurance they can return to the unit for a reminder. Good luck!
Hi all! Thank you all for comments. A clarification: The Labs will take place in a classroom scenario where 8 -20 students working alone or in pairs will physically install a network video surveillance camera onto a computer network. The learning outcome should be that they will be able to install and configure the camer over the network by themselves.
Up until now we have been using the "cookbook approach": "Do this, then do that" all illustrated with pictures and screenshots.
Personally however, I find this to be quite boring, but then again I am an activist like Margaret discussed.....
Is there any other way?
You could provide an 'Animated' guide, recording what you do and providing it as replacement to the static screenshots approach. There are plenty of tools available to do that.



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