Best Practices in Online Courses

Wednesday 11:30am-1:30pm UMC Aspen Rooms
Poster Session

Session Chairs

Laurel Goodell, Princeton University
Audeliz Matias, SUNY Empire State College
Engaging Students in Geoscience through Fully Online Courses
Audeliz Matias, SUNY Empire State College

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Students are increasingly turning to the web for quality education that fits into their lives. As a result, higher education institutions are expanding their offerings through online courses. Nonetheless, online learning brings challenges as well as a fresh opportunity for exploring pedagogical practices not present in traditional higher education programs, particularly in the sciences. Online learning, supported with hands-on and minds-on activities, actively engages student with critical thinking skills and higher level of learning such as analysis and evaluation of information. This presentation will focus on examples from a series of geoscience and environmental science courses currently offered fully online at SUNY Empire State College. Taking advantage of the proliferation of tools currently available for online learning management systems, we will explore how we approach course development based on best practices in online learning to create an interactive learning environment. Tasks employed during the development phase of our courses focus on the instructional design and organization of the course. Students learn through case studies, article reviews, group projects, problem-based exercises, data collection and the use of scientific data among other activities. This approach allows students to enhance their understanding of real-world issues and learn important concepts. The sequence of activities, required resources, and timing of the learning modules maximize the use of different learning styles. In this presentation participants will learn about our approach to develop the courses, examples and challenges as well as discuss how they could use our approach.
DIG Texas Blueprints as Input to a New Online Dual Enrollment Course
Kathy Ellins, The University of Texas at Austin
Eleanour Snow, US Geological Survey
Eric Riggs, Texas A & M University
Eric Stocks, The University of Texas at Tyler

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The NSF-sponsored DIG Texas Instructional Blueprint Project supports the development of five online course blueprints for use in high school Earth Science classes. Each blueprint is an original curated geoscience scope and sequence, packaged with nine three-week teaching units with links to pre-existing, exemplary educational resources. The Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College created the structural frameworks for organizing information and workflows to support the collections and facilitate online review of resources and virtual interaction among the blueprint development teams and maintains the project website. Online blueprints are accessible to teachers nationwide. One outcome of the DIG Texas Instructional Blueprint Project is the opportunity to contribute teaching materials to a new dual enrollment (high school/ college) geoscience course at The University of Texas. A joint effort between the Jackson School of Geosciences and the ONRAMPs program in the Center for Teaching and Learning, the dual enrollment geoscience course features nine units from the DIG Texas Instructional Blueprint collection organized into a yearlong course that meets course requirements for UT GEO 302E, Earth, Wind and Fire: Introduction to Geoscience. The course also has background materials, PowerPoint lectures, and assessments for implementing classroom teachers. In addition to meeting college requirements, the course is aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Earth and Space Science, the NGSS and the College Readiness Standards. The dual enrollment course will be piloted in 2015 – 2016 in high school classrooms across Texas. The course is delivered through Canvas, the open-source learning management system used by The University of Texas at Austin. http://serc.carleton.edu/dig_blueprints/index.html
Simulations and Virtual Labs for Online Earth Science Education
Randy Russell, UCAR Center for Science Education

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Coursework increasingly includes online components, whether in the form of homework to accompany traditional face-to-face classes, or filling more substantial roles in a flipped classroom setting or in wholly online courses. Fieldwork and hands-on laboratory experiences are important features of many traditional Earth science classes. Such "real world" experiences often are absent, or play a diminished role, in partly or completely online courses. How then to provide students opportunities to make decisions and collect and analyze data in hybrid or online courses? We believe that the use of computer-based simulations and virtual labs in online aspects of courses can partially fill the pedagogical role of wet labs and fieldwork in traditional face-to-face classes. Simulations and virtual labs addressing Earth science topics are gradually becoming more commonplace, thanks to the efforts of a variety of universities, government agencies, commercial vendors, and other groups. These resources can be difficult for an instructor to find, however, as they are scattered about the web sites of their respective developers and are often difficult to specify in searches on educational resource cataloging sites. Our poster will describe an ongoing effort at UCAR to round up links to such resources pertaining to Earth science disciplines. We will also highlight some simulations relevant to the Earth sciences, primarily related to climate and the atmospheric sciences, developed by our group. Although we are strong proponents of the importance hands-on experiences, we also believe that computer-based simulations and virtual labs can supplement such experiences. Also, especially in completely online courses, these resources can provide crucial "minds-on" activities that balance more passive instructional tools such as the readings and videos that often make up the bulk of online course content.
Natural Hazards of Teaching Online
Amanda Patterson, University of Mississippi Main Campus

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When I began my teaching career, my experiences as a student in the classroom helped shape my approach and goals. More recently, when I embarked on the adventure of teaching online courses, I had less relevant experience from which to draw as well as many questions: How will I get a feel for the students as actual human lifeforms, and vice versa? Can I create a class that I will have time to manage? Can I avoid academic misconduct issues? How can I appeal to, motivate, and instill confidence in non-majors from a distance? Will the students feel confident that they have learned the material before exams? Developing and teaching online has been a tremendous learning experience as well as an asset to my classroom abilities. Much to my surprise, I have adapted my traditional courses for both majors and non-majors to include components that have proven successful in my online experiences. In an effort to exchange ideas with seasoned online instructors and in hopes of encouraging wary colleagues, I wish to share some effective ideas, examples, and lessons learned.