Using Predictive Demos in an Oceanography 100 Online Course

Alan Trujillo, Palomar College
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Physical demonstrations of physical processes are a key component of most geoscience courses and serve to help deepen student understanding of complex processes. How does one do this for online courses? I filmed all of my oceanography demos at my school's Educational TV studio. I created them in two parts (what I call "predictive demos"), where students get to observe the setup in Part 1, then they have to predict what happens next before they see Part 2 of the ocean demo video. I perform the actual demonstrations live in my face-to-face classes, but the predictive part works best in an online, asynchronous setting.

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Learning Goals

Content/concepts goals
The goal of these ocean demos is to have students predict what will happen next, and by doing so, to help them more deeply understand some of the physical processes in oceanography.

Higher order thinking skills goals
Students must be able to use oceanographic processes to critically analyze the ocean demo setup to formulate a hypothesis of what will happen next.

Other skills goals
Critical thinking and writing skills.

Context for Use

Type and level of course
Undergraduate Introductory Oceanography, but it would work well for any introductory geoscience course.

Skills and concepts students should have mastered
Students must have the ability to keenly observe the demo set-up, then use oceanographic processes to predict what will happen next.

How the activity is situated in the course
These ocean demos are situated throughout my course wherever a physical demo is appropriate.

Description and Teaching Materials

Here are the instructions (and a sample predictive demo using a tank with colored water masses) that I use in class:

Step 1 : This ocean demo video (Part 1 of 2) shows a tank with colored water masses. After viewing part 1, please answer the question that is posed next (releases video Part 2).

Click on this link to play the Vimeo video and use this password to enter the site: navanax (it's a type of sea slug)

Step 2 : Answer the following quiz question online, which releases the ocean demo video Part 2:
What do you think will happen to the colored waters when Mr. T lifts the dividers in the tank?

Step 3 : This ocean demo video (Part 2 of 2), which can only be viewed after answering the question about what will happen next, shows what happens next when Mr. T lifts the dividers in the tank with colored water masses.

Click on this link to play the Vimeo video and use this password to enter the site: navanax (it's a type of sea slug)

Teaching Notes and Tips

One of the things I like about online predictive demos is that every single online student must formulate a response to the quiz question "What will happen next?," which allows them access to Part 2 of the ocean demo video. I also think this active learning part increases student interest, participation, and buy-in for the ocean demos that are embedded throughout my Ocean 100 Online course.

I don't grade these responses, but they are interesting to view. In many cases, you can almost see the gears turning in students' heads. For example, here's one response from a student: "When I first thought about the different colored waters in the tank, I figured that they would all mix together. But then I realized how important density is, just like we discussed in class. So I think the one with the highest density (the cold, blue-colored water) will sink to the bottom of the tank. And the warm, low density red-colored water will settle at the top, at the surface of the tank. Just like the real ocean!"

In addition, when students make a correct prediction, they are very proud of their correct answer and often post their accomplishment at a class Discussion Board, with a post such as: "I nailed that last ocean demo question!"


These ocean demo videos have an embedded question that could be graded, but I don't use it for that purpose; rather, I only use it to release Part 2 of the video. On exams, however, these ocean demo videos can be assessed. For example, an exam question for this set of videos could be: "Briefly describe what happened when Mr. T. lifted the dividers out of the tank with colored waters."

References and Resources