Initial Publication Date: May 25, 2017

Michael Hernandez, Weber State University

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

I focus on two areas to assist student learning. First, I bring in current geologic events making the news during the semester to emphasize the "reality" of Earth Science across the globe. The goal is for students to connect the course topics with the dynamic real-world processes and how those processes impact society. I provide web links to mainstream news articles, videos, official government releases, and geologic hazards centers that contain interesting data/information about relevant geologic events.

Second, I have students accomplish interactive assignments that present Earth Science concepts using multiple methods of delivery, such as video, animation, simple calculations, online data collection and analysis, and readings. For example, on one assignment, I have students use Google Earth and the U.S. Geological Survey Earthquake Hazards Program website to determine the number and location of Magnitude 5.0 or larger earthquakes that occur over a 4-day window. Students examine the data and discuss the relationship between the distributions of the earthquakes as it relates to Plate Tectonics.

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

Technological tools are used moderately in my online introductory Earth Science course. I use Google Earth when I want to focus on the geographic distribution of some geologic process (e.g., major plate boundaries, earthquakes, major faults, active volcanoes, etc.). This platform allows me to easily display many geologic features available through the application as well as upload additional geospatial features created in other applications such as a GIS.

I also extensively use the text publisher's online learning tools (e.g., videos, animations, interactive assignments) in concert with public-domain online data tools from the U.S. Geological Survey hazard programs to augment text chapter topics. However, I make an effort not to rely on technology alone as some students are intimidated when trying to utilize the applications and become frustrated which diminishes their learning experience.

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

Student engagement is managed through use of an online discussion board. Assessment is performed through examination of exam answers associated with specific learning outcomes. Both managing student engagement and performing accurate assessment of student learning outcomes in an online course are areas I would like to improve upon.