Initial Publication Date: May 25, 2017

Callan Bentley, Northern Virginia Community College

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

Interactive, rich, user-driven exploration of real geoscience data. Students should get opportunities to get geoscience procedures demonstrated for them, then practice on their own at both basic (identification, labeling) and advanced (interpretation, synthesis) levels. The students benefit from prompt, detailed feedback. In my situation, the on-assignment annotation provided by Croco-doc helps this goal.

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

In my online-only Physical Geology course, I have 'lab' experiences that utilize both Google Earth and virtual sample sets (mainly GigaPan format) but I'm also developing a suite of 3D models that users only need a web browser to access. I think the IRIS set of tools (earthquake browser, 3D models of hypocenters) is something I'd like to weave into the course.

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

The way my course is set up is not quite ideal. It is the result of a committee's work, and feels like it. There are some discussion-based activities, including one I like wherein students collaborate on the identification and interpretation of rock samples they have found, but we only have four "required" discussions through the semester, conscious of the fact that these "conversations" can be extraordinarily boring for high-achieving students if they are forced into a group with a disengaged or low-achieving student. Assessment: in terms of summative evaluations, we have weekly (unit) quizzes and then 4 tests throughout the 16-week-long semester.