Online Teaching--Lessons Learned during the Pandemic
A tale of two online courses
Charly Bank, University of Toronto
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This poster summarizes my reflection on two courses I taught during the pandemic. Both courses targeted non-science students, both courses had about 200 students, both courses were taught in an online asynchronous mode, both courses were taken by students across multiple time zones, both courses included weekly quizzes, two multiple choice open-book tests, and a scaffolded assignment, and both courses used a very similar web presence. One course offered recorded lectures, worksheets, and summary concept maps to introduce material, more like a traditional lecture course, and encouraged but did not require students to collaborate. The other course facilitated small-group discussions (all students were expected to collaborate in teams of four throughout the term), and provided links to websites and short summary videos to highlight key concepts. My poster will include quantitative data as well as a synopsis of student comments from the course evaluations, and my own thoughts regarding the preparation of the courses, their delivery, and propose hypothesis regarding why some aspects did not work well and what students expect from me as an online instructor.
The Impact of Educational Games on Learning, Engagement, and Equity in Geosciences
Rowan Martindale, The University of Texas at Austin
Barbara Sulbaran, The University of Texas at Austin
Estefania Salgado-Jauregui, Servicio Geologico Colombiano
North Cooc, The University of Texas at Austin
Kathy Ellins, The University of Texas at Austin
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Incorporating play in classrooms has been shown to improve student learning (Griggs et al., 2009); however, the advantages may not be equal across all learners. Some studies have suggested that gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic background may correlate with students' likelihood of engaging in educational games (e.g., Andrews, 2008; Martindale and Weiss, 2020). Here, we assess the efficacy of educational board games in geoscience classrooms among different demographic groups. We hypothesize that utilizing high-context games as an educational medium will ameliorate the gap in educational gains between groups with different cultural backgrounds. We also present a new educational game, "Reef Survivor'', designed to help players learn about reef ecology, evolution, extinction, and resilience in the face of environmental change. In the game, players (or teams) are conservation experts in charge of preserving their reef, while they are challenged with changing conditions like evolution (e.g., mutations, migration) and biotic or environmental disturbances (e.g., hurricanes, global warming). Online versions of the games "Reef Survivor" and "Taphonomy: Dead and Fossilized" were developed in Google Jamboard, so they could be played in a web-based geoscience course during the COVID-19 pandemic. The efficacy of these games was evaluated with undergraduate geoscience students in the freshman class "Life Through Time" at the Jackson School of Geosciences (n=58). Four lab sections (11 to 17 students) were observed and learning gains were assessed across the two games over two 2-hour lab sessions. Two sections had competitive gaming conditions with one control group and the other with a positive priming condition (stereotype threat counter). The other two sections played collaboratively and competitively (teams of two), again with one control and one group with positive priming conditions. Evaluation instruments include pre/post surveys completed by students and an observation protocol adapted from Kern et al. (2007).
Broadening participation in the digital age: Designing online geoscience labs to engage community college programs
Joshua Zimmt, University of California-Berkeley
Lisa White, University of California Museum of Paleontology
Larry Taylor, University of California-Berkeley
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Advancing Community College Education and Student Success (ACCESS) is a collaborative partnership between the University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP) and local community colleges. In typical years, the program features specimen-based lab courses utilizing fossils from the UCMP collections. However, the COVID-19 pandemic created unique obstacles for the program, our partners, and our ability to accommodate a diverse body of students with differing needs. To meet the needs of our partner institutions during the pandemic, we shifted our focus to the development of online paleobiology and geoscience experiences to provide an alternative to the in-person ACCESS labs.The adaptation of the ACCESS labs to a digital format allowed us to utilize a wider range of resources including three-dimensional models of fossils (many of which would not be available in an in-person ACCESS lesson), online databases, and virtual interactives. Incorporating these resources into the online ACCESS labs allowed us to develop a new suite of lessons in collaboration with our partners. The inclusion of databases (e.g., Paleobiology Database) and interactive tools (e.g., UCMP Understanding Global Change) in these online labs allowed us to place a greater emphasis upon scientific inquiry, data collection, and hypothesis testing by focusing on phenomena throughout Earth history.Student and instructor responses to the online labs have been overwhelmingly positive.Online ACCESS labs enable us to provide lessons in synchronous and asynchronous formats; synchronous lessons via partner-hosted video conferencing allow students to interact with UCMP instructors. In addition, the online format removes physical and monetary (i.e., specimens, transport costs) barriers to engagement with our partners. This has enabled us to expand ACCESS labs to community colleges across the country. As we continue to develop the ACCESS program, our goal is to develop a sustainable program model that can be replicated regardless of institutional constraints.
Hands-on environmental science during a pandemic: activity design, results, and efficacy
Rebekah Stein, University of California-Berkeley
Nathan Sheldon, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Jenna Munson, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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Engagement with the natural world is imperative to student learning in the geo- and environmental sciences. Immersion in the environment is particularly useful for complicated subjects like nutrient cycling and biogeochemistry. However, access to the outdoors is not ubiquitous, and often students living in urban centers and/or remote locations are unable to access geo-, bio- and environmental science activities and demonstrations. This inaccessibility was exacerbated by the pandemic. During the summer of 2020, we created a remote learning activity to teach the carbon cycle to high school students enrolled in the University of Michigan's Earth Camp. These high school students from the greater Detroit area were admitted to this week-long summer program to facilitate their access to the natural world, but when Earth Camp was moved online for safety reasons, this access became more limited. Students collected hair from their pets and their pets' foods (or in the case of students without pets, their favorite snack foods) and sent it to the University of Michigan's Earth Systems Laboratory for isotope analyses. Prior to processing, students recorded ingredients in their specimens and hypothesized what isotope values their specimens should have, based on C3/C4 plant distribution. The students' results, which showed strong correlation between pet hair and pet food, allowed them to examine how the Earth's carbon cycle is reflected by common plants and animals living in their own homes as well as the opportunity to collect physical observations and analyze their own data. This activity received positive evaluations from students, and students felt their knowledge of isotopes and the chemistry behind their food increased after this activity. In addition to the Earth Camp audience, we created and shared an activity that can be used in high school and introductory undergraduate Earth and environmental science courses.
Teaching Computation Online: Tips, Tools, and Resources from the 2020 MATLAB Workshop
Monica Bruckner, Carleton College
Mitchell Bender-Awalt, Carleton College
Lisa Kempler, MathWorks
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Computation enables students and researchers to access data, visualize it, perform analyses, connect to instruments, and model systems to predict behavior and events. The need for a computationally savvy workforce that can address complex, wicked problems demands equipping students with quantitative literacy and skills for future studies and work.The transition to online teaching due to COVID-19 has been challenging across geoscience education, and learning computational skills in a remote-learning environment may be particularly challenging for students who are new to programming or who are still developing their quantitative skills. The 2020 Teaching Computation Online with MATLAB workshop endeavored to tackle these challenges by bringing together faculty to share and build upon strategies for teaching computation online – both for those who are new to it, as well as experienced educators who are looking for new strategies. The October 2020 three-day virtual workshop brought together a group of 49 participants, leaders, and staff, with the goal of sharing effective classroom activities, online MATLAB tools for teaching and grading, and MATLAB expertise. Through a combination of presentations, discussions, and group and individual work time, the workshop program offered participants space and guidance to create and strengthen curriculum and bring home best practices to apply in their courses. Participants identified and discussed strategies that are engaging and interactive, including those that facilitate learning-by-doing, group discussions, and real-time assessment. They also developed ideas around using MATLAB tools (Live Editor/Live Scripts, MATLAB Grader, MATLAB Online, MATLAB Drive) and LMS-embedded tools. Online assessment strategies included how to best design assessments, addressing equity and accessibility challenges, and mitigating cheating. A synthesis of these strategies, recommendations, tools, and resources is available on the Teaching Online web page. In addition, collections of faculty-authored, peer-reviewed teaching activities, essays, and courses are available for free on the website.
Five Key Components to Successful and Engaging Online Geoscience Labs
Jennifer Lewis, University of Calgary
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The presentation will identify the five key components found in successful and highly engaging online geoscience lab courses. Examples will be taken from online earth science and geology courses offered at a two-year community college. Attendees will see specific examples of how the key components are incorporated into different online science labs and how each component creates an environment that promotes the understanding of science and the students' success.Following the presentation, attendees will be asked to reflect on the geoscience labcourses they design, teach or would like to design and teach and identify concrete waysthey can incorporate the five key components into those online geoscience labs. Attendees will share their plans to utilize the information from the presentation with thegroup and will have time during the Q&A to discuss as a group, pose follow up questionsto the presenter and ultimately leave the session with an action plan to create, update and facilitate engaging online geoscience labs.
Using automated feedback in an undergraduate programming class on climate data analysis
Karen Shell, Oregon State University
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In Climate Data Analysis (ATS 301) at Oregon State University, students develop basic Python programming skills for plotting and statistical analysis of climate data. With the transition to remote instruction in Fall 2020, the instructor and TA were no longer able to provide informal feedback in person. To mitigate this, we used the Jupyter Notebook packages nbgrader, plotchecker, and matplotcheck to set up "autograding" of notebooks. Students ran scripts within their notebooks for instant feedback (for example "Y-axis label missing", "Incorrect number of points plotted; check the year range") while working through their assignments. A human grader still assigned the final grade for the "autograded" questions, as well as the short answer questions. The intentions were for students to gain confidence about their coding when the instructor was not available and to free instructor time for more student interaction. Informal polling indicated that all students found the automated feedback at least somewhat useful. Submitted assignments had fewer of the common plotting errors (e.g., missing legends, incorrect data plotted) seen in previous years. Grading required less time, as the grader could use the autograder output to target flagged answers. The biggest drawback was the large amount of time (and proficiency with Python) needed to write the scripts specific to each assignment. Clear instructions were needed regarding plot details, variable names, etc., and there were many corner cases to address. In future years, these tests will be refined to be easier to use and provide more feedback to students regarding common errors. While this tool was developed partially due to the switch to remote learning necessitated by COVID-19, we will continue to use it upon returning to the classroom.Instructors are welcome to contact the author for examples of testing scripts and nbgrader configuration.