Initial Publication Date: May 25, 2017

Erica Barrow, Ivy Tech Community College-Central Indiana

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

I developed, teach, and mentor adjuncts for a large state-wide community college introductory Earth Science online course. The students who take this class are generally non-science majors completing their science elective. Many of our students have the perception that online science is going to be "easier" than taking a science course face-to-face. This incorrect perception leads to a harsh reality check during the semester, where students are unprepared for the additional rigors and self-motivation needed to succeed in the online environment.
I have found that the best practices for online Earth Science success start with organized and purposeful course design that includes a variety of learning strategies and assessments aimed at achieving measurable course objectives. Timely feedback to students and opportunities for student personalization & creativity of assignments are also useful practices for success.

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

For my online Earth Science course I do have students complete a Plate Tectonics activity that utilizes Google Earth. The overall success of this activity is either hit or miss. Most of the highly-engaged, technology-confident students like the use of Google Earth and enjoy the activity; while other less-confident students struggle with the basic use and interaction with Google Earth, ultimately failing or skipping this assignment. I've not found a great way to utilize Google Earth for ALL my students yet.

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

Student engagement is a constant struggle in my online Earth Science course. Much of the engagement is teacher-to-student focused, while student-to-student interaction (such as discussion boards) is simplistic or lacking high-level details.