Initial Publication Date: May 25, 2017

Amy Hochberg, Utah State University

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

I teach several introductory geology courses to non-major students. Since many of my students have very little scientific background, I make use of as many forms of media and learning tools as possible, such as scientific articles, photos, podcasts, videos, and animations. I even incorporate assignments that involve drawing and sketching because some students may excel in art rather than writing. With a variety of learning methods, students stay engaged and science does not become boring.

I have recently incorporated a Discussion panel where students are required to ask or answer two questions during the semester on anything related to the material learned in class. The result has been even better than expected. Students are asking very thoughtful questions and attempting to answer them as best as they can, which they typically have to do by conducting some independent research. When needed, I step in and expand on the answers. Since asking a question is required this format is beneficial because many students are typically afraid to ask for fear that they may be the only one that doesn't "get it". It is also making me realize where there are common misconceptions.

To make for an excellent online Earth Science learning experience, I also try to make topics relevant to the daily lives of the students. I use local examples when possible to make students understand and appreciate the world around them. The hope is that this will make them value natural resources and in turn become better stewards of the Earth.