Tim White, Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus
From your experience, what practices make for excellent online Earth Science learning?
First and most importantly is to have a well-designed and considered curriculum - evolved as you teach. In other words, work out the kinks and iterate each time you teach, just as if you were in a classroom. Second, be organized. Out of sight out of mind makes it easy to forget about your online students. So develop a routine for communicating with them and be very clear to them that regular communication will be important - it goes both ways. Finally, be available for phone calls. A lot can be accomplished through email, chatrooms, discussion groups, etc., but a timely scheduled phone call can make a big difference in a student's performance and life.
How do you utilize technological tools (Google Earth, topical databases, blogging, etc.) in your online courses?
I avail of two of the tools listed above: Google Earth and topical databases. Google Earth is used along with other remotely sensed imagery to look at, consider, describe and finally identify landforms from different regions of North America. I use a variety off federal data bases available online to help the students develop site specific environmental characterizations.
How do you manage student engagement and assessment in your online courses?
In an organized and regular fashion. I don't let it pile up and end up having to evaluate a series of student products all at once. This way I can see who is doing well and who is not and be able to intervene early (and often if needed) for those who need a little more guidance or motivation.