Initial Publication Date: May 25, 2017

Al Trujillo, Palomar College

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

Education studies show that one of the key practices that makes for excellent online learning is to build a sense of community. There are many different ways to do this, some small and some big. For example, I use a first week of class discussion board that allows students to interact and introduce themselves to the class. An extra credit assignment follows, where students are quizzed on some of the ocean-related characteristics of their classmates (ex: The name of the student who says they are afraid of the ocean but posted a picture of themselves riding a surfboard in Hawaii is ____________). Another example is for other discussion board assignments, students must reply to 2 other students' posts and use the name of the other student in their reply (ex: "John, your post made me think differently about this subject because...").

The feedback I get from students confirm these strategies, such as a student who told me, "I know more people in this online class than I do in any of my other face-to-face classes!"

I also think a host of other good teaching practices translate well into online courses.

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

Based on our teaching experience, we know where our students get stuck with our subject matter. I would encourage online teachers to produce short video clips about difficult topics to help their online students. I have produced several that are on YouTube, and they seem to help not only my students, but other students who are taking similar classes.

In addition, I am a big believer in increasing students' skill in analyzing real-world oceanographic datasets and have been involved in several recent projects to develop appropriate college-level curriculum to accomplish that: Ocean Tracks and Ocean Observing Initiative (OOI) Teaching With Data. I'd be happy to share these free, online curriculum projects with other participants.

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

Student Engagement: Make the subject matter interesting and incorporate active learning techniques into your online course, just like in a face-to-face course!
Student Assessment: Frequent quizzes and assignments.