Characteristics of student interest in online introductory geology labs
Inquiry-based lab activities offer students opportunities to engage in authentic geoscience learning experiences in which they also interact with their instructors and peers. We hosted a 2020 EER workshop in which instructors developed new inquiry-based introductory geology laboratory activities, which are now peer reviewed and published at https://serc.carleton.edu/inquiry_intro_geo/index.html. We have studied student learning and interest in seven of those labs along with other lab activities used at five US institutions. Weekly interest surveys assess students' immediate feedback on their level of interest in each lab (Likert Scale) and possible changes that would increase their interest. Pre- and post-semester surveys also measure students' general interest in taking an online lab course. During fall 2020, pre and post-semester survey responses indicate that student interest in taking an online lab generally decreased or stayed the same from the start to end of the semester; during spring 2021, students' interest either stayed the same or increased slightly over the semester. Weekly surveys indicate most students believe their labs were either equally or less interesting online (53%, 43%, respectively), and only 4% of students indicate lab activities were more interesting online than face-to-face. Students suggested that their interest in lab activities would increase with additional hands-on learning (25%), increased relevance (22%), gamification (18%), field trips to see concepts in the real world (14%), and decreased challenge/complexity (13%). Pre- to post-semester changes in students' interest in an online lab course are likely partially related to factors beyond the scope of lab curriculum (e.g. Zoom familiarity or fatigue) or could be influenced by modifications to lab activities that accommodate online instruction. Additional interest factors may include the topics of labs, in that students more frequently ranked climate-, weather- and atmosphere-related topics as more interesting online and, not surprisingly, rock and mineral labs as less interesting online.