Beth Hallauer, Sinclair Community College
From your experience, what practices make for excellent online Earth Science learning?
Many students in entry level geology have no concept of how geology and earth science apply to their everyday life in any way. You ask them the first day of class - "What do you think you're going to learn about in this class?" The typical answer is "rocks". Geology/Earth Science is SO much more than that. The information and activities that serve to help them to learn how geology applies to their lives in a practical and meaningful way while imparting basic Earth Science concepts and terminology are most effective. Also important are activities that utilize real online resources and data - to make students aware of the information available to them and to give them practice in determining what is valid and useful and what is not.
How do you utilize technological tools (Google Earth, topical databases, blogging, etc.) in your online courses?
Several activities that I utilize in both my Face-to-Face class and my online class make use of online resources provided by various government and private entities - specifically map resources for hazard evaluations. Sometimes preparation of the bulk of the assignment involves writing specific step-by-step instructions for the use of the online tools(and I have discovered that following step-by-step, written instruction is more challenging for some students than you might guess), but the use of those online resources and the resulting depth of understanding is incredibly effective and valuable in their learning process.
How do you manage student engagement and assessment in your online courses?
Announcements of what to expect at the beginning of each week for the entire class, e-mails - both to the class (when something needs to be addressed with the entire group) and in exchanges with individuals, Detailed feedback on assignments and discussion assessments primary methods of student engagement. Grading of class activities, with the exception of 4 online quizzes is done individually and is fairly time consuming, particularly, the discussion assessments. We currently do not use any "Mastering..." assessments as I have seen in some other academic disciplines and don't foresee that we will use them any time in the near future.