Structural Equation Modeling in R using lavaan (E-Learning Course)

In this e-learning course, we will cover the basics of structural equation modeling (SEM) using the R package lavaan.

This course is closed and you can't apply anymore. Please check our other courses.


Course Level
ECTS credits
1.5 ECTS
Course location(s)
Online course


Participants will learn how to interact with the lavaan software and how to run common types of structural equation models (e.g. path models, confirmatory factor analyses, latent regression models, multiple group models) using lavaan. No prior knowledge of lavaan is necessary, but some experience with R (although not strictly required) is strongly encouraged.

Structural equation modeling (SEM) is a powerful tool with which researchers can build intricate models of structural relationships and measurement processes. Traditionally, open-source software options for estimating structural equation models have been quite limited, but the lavaan project (https://lavaan.ugent.be/) has been steadily changing this narrative. The lavaan package is a completely free and open-source R package that implements a wide range of SEMs. The package is also being actively developed, so its capabilities continue to grow.

In this e-learning course, we will go over the basics of SEM using lavaan. We will first cover the lavaan syntax and the workflow of analyses using lavaan. We will then discuss how to implement common SEMs in lavaan. For example:

Path models - Latent regression models - Confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) - Multiple-group CFAs

We will also consider issues that complicate the analysis and how these issues are addressed in lavaan. For example:

Missing data - Model selection - 
Categorical indicators

The course will be open for two weeks. During this time the participants can work through the material at their own pace. In addition to the scaffolded, self-paced instruction provided by the electronic course materials, participants will also have the opportunity to interact directly with lavaan experts via forum discussions and live, online Q&A sessions.

The Q&A sessions serve both as a time to discuss the course content and as consulting time. In these sessions, the instructors will answer participants’ questions about the course material and help participants apply the newly learned techniques to their own data.

Participants should install both (the free desktop version) on their computers before the beginning of the course.

  • R can be downloaded here.
  • RStudio can be downloaded here.

No prior experience with lavaan is required, but we will not cover basic R usage. We will focus primarily on how to implement various SEM analyses using lavaan. So, some prior experience with R is strongly encouraged. We will provide information on external resources that participants can use to brush-up on their R or SEM knowledge before following this course

The substantive content of this course largely overlaps with S20: Introduction to Structural Equation Modeling using Mplus (with differential specializations in the advanced topics). These two courses can, therefore, be viewed as largely equivalent alternatives that target different audiences by employing different software (i.e. lavaan vs. Mplus) and instructional formats (i.e. online vs. on-location).

There is no direct follow-up to this course that covers more advanced analyses using lavaan, but participants who are interested in using SEM to analyze longitudinal data can follow S23: Advanced Longitudinal Modeling in Mplus. After completing this course, participants who wish to follow S23 will have sufficient statistical background knowledge, but they will need to review the corresponding Mplus usage/syntax

Day to Day Documents

S65 day_to_day_program 2024.pdf


Dr. Kyle M. Lang and Dr. Rebecca Kuiper

Target audience

Master and PhD students, PhDs, researchers, and other professionals who are interested in learning (more) about the lavaan project, how to use lavaan to estimate common structural equation models, and how they can apply lavaan in their own work. The course will be taught at a beginning master level.

For an overview of all our summer school courses offered by the Department of Methodology and Statistics please click here.

Aim of the course

After completing this course, participants will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast the strengths/weaknesses of the lavaan software relative to other SEM packages
  • Translate their own analyses into lavaan models
  • Estimate common structural equation models using lavaan
  • Write R scripts to implement simple SEM-based analyses using lavaan

Study load

The course content comprises five full days of material delivered via pre-prepared online lessons. The course will run for two weeks. The participants can work through the content at their own pace during these two weeks. The course materials will remain available to registered participants for two years after the conclusion of the course. The instructors will be available throughout the course via forum discussions and live, online Q&A sessions. The specific schedule will be available before June 2024. 

You will receive a certificate upon course completion. Please be aware that this course does not include graded activities, and therefore we cannot provide a transcript of grades.


  • Course fee: €710.00
  • Included: Course + course materials


PhD students from the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences at Utrecht University have the opportunity to attend three Winter/Summer School courses funded by the Graduate School of Social and Behavioural Sciences. Additionally, they may choose to take as many courses as they wish at their own expense from their personal budget.

Utrecht Summer School does not offer scholarships for this course.

Additional information

Online course

We also offer tailormade M&S courses and in-house M&S training. If you want to check out the possibilities, please contact us at ms.summerschool@uu.nl


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