Workshop Overview

Students working in different ways
This workshop provided geoscience faculty with information and resources to improve their teaching in an online setting. During the workshop we explored pedagogic topics that are especially relevant to the virtual classroom such as how to deliver content, types of learning activities, how to run effective online discussions, assessment strategies and class management via the web. The workshop included a series of web-based synchronous and asynchronous sessions, including presentations from expert practitioners of online learning, panel discussions, on-line chat sessions, and time for guided individual and small group work. A primary focus of the workshop was the development of course components and teaching materials specifically designed for use in online courses. These materials will be published on the website for use by other faculty.

Workshop Goals

This workshop focused on enhancing online teaching by:

  • Introducing the principles of effective pedagogy in an online environment.
  • Providing examples of successful online learning courses, activities and projects, and practical advice about "what works."
  • Providing participants with the opportunity to refine their own online courses or activities.
  • Providing an opportunity to work with colleagues in developing web-based collections of examples and best practices for online teaching.
  • Supporting a community of scholars interested in continued work on online learning in the geoscience curriculum.


This workshop took place on June 23-25 and 28-29, 2010. This was an online workshop and there was no face-to-face component. The workshop consisted of both synchronous and asynchronous components throughout the 5-days of the workshop.


Important outcomes of this workshop were to support participants in creating successful online geoscience courses and course components, and to create a series of examples and best practices to be published on the web site. In order to accomplish this, participants were expected to do the following:
  • In advance of the workshop, all participants submitted a short description of an online course or an activity or course component. Participants selected one of the following options.
  1. Describe your online course. This course should be one that you feel is a strong example of effective online teaching. The submission form will ask you to describe the course content, goals and format, as well as what specific elements are effective, why it works, and how you know that it is effective. Complete the form by June 15; you will have an opportunity to revise your course design during the workshop.
  2. Describe a specific part of your online course, such as an activity, a module, a project, an assessment, or a discussion. This activity should be one that you feel is a strong example of effective online teaching. The submission form will ask you to describe the context of the activity, how you teach it, what specific elements are effective, why it works, and how you know that it is effective. Complete the form by June 15; you will have an opportunity to revise your activity design during the workshop.
  3. If you have not yet taught an online course, please use either of the links above to describe either a course or an activity that could be successfully adapted to an online classroom. The online form will ask you to describe how this can be transferred to an online setting, what specific adaptations are needed, and how you will evaluate the effectiveness of the course or activity. Complete the form as much as you can by June 15, and you will have an opportunity to improve your activity design during the workshop.
  • During the workshop, improve or enhance the teaching materials that you submitted, based on knowledge, insight and advice you receive during the workshop.
  • During the workshop, participate in a group writing project about effective online teaching methods and strategies for solving challenges of teaching online.
  • Participate in as many synchronous sessions as possible, post in each of the discussion threads, and review video files of sessions you were not able to attend.
  • In the year following the workshop, implement the course, course component or activity you designed or that is available through the Cutting Edge website and complete a review of that activity using the observational protocol provided.

Online workshops have many advantages, especially in your ability to access all of your instructional resources from your home office. However, the downside is that there are also many local distractions. So please be sure to block out times in your calendar for all scheduled workshop activities, just as if you were attending face-to-face meetings at those times. We anticipate that in total, the workshop will require 3-4 hours of your time each of the 5 scheduled days and that you will want to set aside some time on the weekend to work on your activity. Your focused attention will be appreciated by all.

For a detailed list of items to be completed by each participant, see the participant checklist.


There is a $50 workshop fee, payable online or by check and due by June 1, 2010.

Application and Selection Criteria

Applications must be submitted by May 7, 2010. The workshop size is limited to 40 participants. Participants will be selected based on the quality of their applications. Workshop speakers will be drawn from the participant pool based on their activity or course submissions and their applications. The final list of participants will be established with the goal of assembling a diverse group reflecting a wide range of institutional types and instructional settings. Preference is given to applicants who hold faculty positions at colleges and universities. Applicants will be notified of selection by mid-May. For more information visit the general information for workshop participants page.

For More Information

Please contact Karin Kirk (kkirk at