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Introduction to Geology
College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level
Adaptations have been made that allow this course to be successful in an online environmentI actually wanted to make few changes in content from a traditional face-to-face course because students are required to take a series of two science courses, in this case Physical Geology and Historical Geology. Students may elect to take Physical Geology online, but Historical Geology in the classroom or vice-versa and I wanted to make sure that the students were not at a disadvantage.
The most successful elements of this course are:The most effective strategy used in teaching Physical Geology Online is organization and repetition. With a set schedule, the students are not getting behind or cramming at the end of a section and they always know when assignments are due, when quizzes and exams are available. Also, each topic has a similar set of webpages associated with it, an overview page, a notes page, a laboratory page, and an extras page. As for repetition, I post the instructions for the course in at least three different spots, in a welcome letter sent before the semester begins, in a welcome email sent with the course management software, and as an individual webpage. The course schedule is posted in a calendar through the course management software, as a downloadable pdf, and a weekly schedule is sent out with the weeks tasks outlined. I was amazed talking with students and learning they who they found information. Not everyone opened their emails, nor did they use the calendar. Posting in multiple places helped to catch each learner. Also, I tried to be consistent in which tools I used in the course management software, the more tools used the more confused the students become. Assignments were always submitted through a homework tool regardless of what type of assignment it was. I know that these strategies helped in making a successful course based on course evaluation, solicited comments, and unsolicited comments. The content does not matter if the student's do not know why they are supposed to learn it and what to do with it.
Recommendations for faculty who teach a course like this:My recommendations for teaching Phyiscal Geology online is to remember that the students are learning this information for the first time and are not always excited about learning it. An online course requires a significant commitment from the students and I tried to facilitate this by how the course was organized and by being an active participant. I tried to be online in the chat room when students were online (often in the late evenings and on the weekends). I also tried to respond to correspondence as quickly as I could. Students become easily frustrated, especially working on the laboratory assignments, when they have a question and cannot find an answer. I tried to remember that in a face-to-face lab session the students also often get frustrated, but their frustration is shorter-lived since the instructor is there to answer questions. I tried to respond to all correspondence like I was having a face-to-face conversation and with as much encouragement as I could. They like the idea that someone is out there coaching them to the finish line.
Another suggestion that I have is to remember that you must include in your correspondence, whether lecture notes or instructions, everything you would say out loud to a face-to-face class. More instructions and explanation is better.
TextbookEssentials of Geology, 3rd Edition, by Stephen Marshak and Geology – Laboratory Manual for Distance Learning, by Ruhle
Example Course WebpagesExample of a topic "Notes" page (Acrobat (PDF) 3MB Jun13 10)
Example of a topic "Overview" page (Acrobat (PDF) 133kB Jun13 10)
Other ReferencesI posted a link to various interactive modules through webGeology (http://ansatte.uit.no/kku000/webgeology/) teaching resources in geology from the University of Tromsø, Norway.
I also found the investigations posted through Exploring Earth (http://www.classzone.com/books/earth_science/terc/navigation/investigation.cfm) McDougal Littell ClassZone very useful for laboratories.