Initial Publication Date: May 25, 2017

Jennifer Nelson, Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

From your experience, what practices make for excellent online Earth Science learning?

Excellent online Earth Science teaching integrates real-world applications and opportunities for students to apply their knowledge. Because the Earth Sciences are intrinsically a hands-on science, online teaching must integrate opportunities for students to make observations and inferences about the Earth. Further, online teaching should integrate the same pedagogy we use in the classroom – collaborative learning, critical thinking, problem solving, and meaningful assessment are all components of a quality online course.

How do you utilize technological tools (Google Earth, topical databases, blogging, etc.) in your online courses?

For most topics, we use online resources to explore maps, data, graphics, or articles about the concepts (for example, NOAA Coral Reef Watch, MarineBio, Earth, and NOAA Buoy Data). My students practice finding quality information online by searching scientific websites and journals for information on concepts. I would like to explore strategies for integrating more technology tools in the online classroom – I am concerned about my student's ability to learn to use complicated online tools and databases and lose the educational impact of the tool. I have also integrated virtual field trips where students explore the oceanography and geology of a specific place and write an essay that pulls together their exploration and observations.

How do you manage student engagement and assessment in your online courses?

I use discussion forums to encourage student-to-student interaction, and the feedback tools of our LMS to provide encouragement and help to my students. I know I could do more with engagement, perhaps by integrating weekly video (synchronous or asynchronous) updates, and I hope to explore these during this workshop. Assessment of student work in my classes includes automatically graded quizzes, essay responses, written work, and exercises that explore data, maps, and other online sources.