Evaluating a custom Lab Notebook for an online soil science course

Monday 4:30pm-6:00pm SERC Building - Atrium | Poster #4
Poster Session Part of Monday Poster Session


Megan Mobley, Oregon State University
Elisabeth McBrien, Oregon State University

Asynchronous online courses expand access to a university education for non-traditional students who might otherwise be unable to pursue a degree program due to work commitments, caregiving responsibilities, or other constraints. In the realm of online university science education, student submission of diverse data types for laboratory assignments within learning management systems (LMS) is a challenge. To address student and instructor struggles with time-consuming and frustrating Word document submissions to the Canvas LMS, we developed an in-house custom Lab Notebook platform for an online, general education Soil Science laboratory course. We aimed to create an intuitive, secure, and free tool, tailored to student needs, that improves accessibility and ease of use for instructors and students.

Via surveys, interviews, and data analysis, this study compares the custom Notebook to the conventional submission. In Spring 2024, one section of the Soil Science course used the custom Notebook; another simultaneous section used the conventional submission. All students received the same instruction and completed the same assignments regardless of Notebook form and/or participation in the research. Research participants in both sections completed identical surveys about their technological proficiency, demographic factors, and their perception of the usability of the Lab Notebook and about their learning in the lab assignment. We gathered course data on lab submission rates and grades for those who consented to participate in the research.

By gauging student experiences and instructor perspectives, this research aims to identify the benefits and drawbacks of developing and using this Lab Notebook tool. The outcomes will not only inform improvements to the current Notebook but also serve as a foundation for developing and testing similar custom tools for online science courses. This study aims to inform user-centered, just design of online learning tools for science education.