Workshop Overview

This workshop will bring together faculty that teach online courses in Earth Sciences and related interdisciplinary courses. As teaching online continues to develop, there is a need to incorporate successful pedagogical approaches. Active learning, systems thinking, using data, and dealing with complexity are harder to use in online education, and these difficulties are magnified at larger scales. Faculty can address these difficulties by using established design principles. In addition, there are many technological topics including Google Earth and databanks, that can strengthen online courses. Building on current teaching materials and design principles, this workshop will explore Earth Science focused online teaching methods and materials, and develop new materials and courses for online education.

All participants will submit an example from their teaching or an idea that could be implemented in the next year in advance of the workshop. Using these examples, we will identify and discuss common principles, and flesh out ideas for new online teaching approaches. A synthesis of the discussion and the example collection will be published to support others in the design of Earth Science teaching activities for online education.

The workshop is designed to bring together faculty who teach about Earth online to explore best practices for enhancing online education. The workshop will consist of 30 faculty from a range of different institutions all with experience teaching online with a subsection of faculty who have taught interdisciplinary courses.

Workshop Goals

The goals of this workshop are to:

  • Create and critique a set of materials for Earth Science online education that can be widely disseminated;
  • Identify and synthesize best practices for teaching about Earth and societal issues online;
  • Develop a clear description of online learning models;
  • Build a community of faculty interested in teaching Earth Science online.

Dates: May 30 – June 1

Participants should plan to arrive in State College, PA, in time for the first workshop event at 4:00 PM on Tuesday May 30th. The workshop will be over on Thursday, June 1 at 2:00 PM and participants should plan return travel no earlier than 4:00 PM that day.


By applying to the workshop, participants agree to do the following, if accepted:

  • Teaching Activity: Participants must submit a teaching activity that addresses teaching about Earth and societal issues and incorporates active learning, authentic data, systems thinking, or interdisciplinary problems.
  • Prepare in advance for the workshop discussions via readings, writings, discussion, or other activities developed by the workshop leaders.
  • Participate fully in the entire workshop and attend all workshop sessions. Many participants will be invited to make presentations or serve as discussion or working group leaders at the workshop. Return travel should not be scheduled before 4 pm on June 1 to allow for finishing the workshop and transport to the SCE airport if necessary.


There is no fee to attend this workshop, and the project grant (NSF DUE - 112533) covers participant lodging, meals and supplies during the workshop. Participants or their institutions are expected to cover the cost of travel to and from the workshop.

A limited number of workshop stipends (not to exceed $500) are available on an application basis to help defray travel expenses in cases of financial need. Stipends are available for airfare only. Participants will be responsible for making their own travel arrangements and submitting receipts to be reimbursed after completion of the workshop. The deadline to apply for travel stipends is April 2, 2017. Late applications will not be considered.

Application and Selection Criteria

This workshop is designed for college faculty who are teaching about Earth, environmental and societal issues online. Applications are welcomed from all disciplines and all institution types.

In selecting participants from among the applicant pool, we will seek a diverse set of participants, including representation from a variety of specialties and institution types. Preference will be given to applicants with experience and expertise in teaching about Earth in the context of societal issues, as well as to applicants interested in strengthening their own teaching. Preference will also be given to U.S. faculty.

The application deadline is: April 2, 2017


The workshop location is Penn State University in State College, PA. All workshop events will take place in the Steidle Building

For More Information

If you have any questions, please contact John McDaris at the Science Education Research Center: