Tim Bralower and Brent Yarnal: Using Coastal Processes, Hazards and Society at Pennsylvania State University — Main Campus
About this course
Course syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 1000kB Oct28 15)
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
The class is in hybrid format with the lecture online at the PSU version of the course. Our weekly 75-minute class period was devoted to lab activities as well as brief discussions. Each of the twelve modules opened on Monday, and the lab met on Thursday. Students were urged to read the lecture materials before coming to class to maximize their learning. Students worked on the lab materials in pairs. Many of the students in the class were geography majors with considerable interest in the course materials and skills to manage the highly interdisciplinary nature of the course.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials
This is one of a growing number of blended courses offered on campus as a result of the InTeGrate program. Students are not that familiar with the blended learning model, but the activities seemed to enrich their learning in the course. There is ongoing task force that is promoting interdisciplinarity in general education courses so the timing is excellent.
As the semester proceeded, students appeared to be overworked by the early modules, which we thought were fairly light. Thus we scaled back lab assignments in Modules 4 and 5 which were clearly heavier. It was also clear that students were not beginning work on the capstone during Module 3, and that this component of the class needed to be explained in more detail. This has led to substantial revisions of the materials, and a much more proactive approach in presenting it in subsequent offerings.
The course is one quarter geology, one quarter hazards, one quarter engineering, and one quarter policy. The interdisciplinarity of the course grows during the semester, and students are pushed to make connections between the different components. From our view, the balance of science, engineering and policy kept the course engaging for the whole semester. The students learned a lot, and their lab assignments and midterms showed a great deal of appreciation of the topics that were introduced.
One of the main issues we found with the course the first and second times it was offered is that it is a lot of work for the students compared to other general education classes. The combination of quiz, blog, lab assignments, midterms and capstone is a lot. The second time we offered the class, we had three students drop because they could not keep up. So we have trimmed back on the labs so the students can complete them in the lab periods. For example, many modules have more than one formative assessment and a summative assessment, so we trimmed the formative labs that we had the students complete.