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GEOED-RESEARCH  February 2010

GEOED-RESEARCH February 2010

Subject:

Re: On-line earth science courses: Experiences and research

From:

David Voorhees <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

GEOEDUCATION RESEARCH INTEREST GROUP <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 28 Feb 2010 09:50:30 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (111 lines)

Frank
I have only taught my 'Survey of Earth Science' online for about a year
and a half, and have recently taught our new 'Creating Your Sustainable
Future' (i.e. Intro to 'Sustainability') online for a year.  It is from
these experiences that I have come to the conclusion that there is a
different student who takes science classes online versus others.  I
have seen a much higher level of performance and completion in the Earth
Science classes, even though the dropout rate is higher than my f2f
sections.  I think that is because, as yu said, the online student does
not come in thinking it will be a 'real' class (in spite of my 6 page
"Read Me First').  I
I would also like to challenge your assertion that online classes don't
lend themselves to inquiry based instruction.  Although it is hard, and
takes a lot of creativity (which I am still trying to achieve), I think
that robust inquity based learning can be done online.  It means we have
to redevelop the model that we have all learned from: here's a
rock/mineral/map, what is it.  Using local resources (i.e. the Chicago
building stones Rob talked about), or recent events (the Haiti or Chile
earthquake).  For example, with the Chile earthquake, you could ask the
students to go to the IRIS website, learn about the event, and research
what an Mw8.8 event is, why it was in Chile and how it compares to th
Mw7.0 Haiti event.  The IRIS website has seismograms of the events, and
catalogues to search historic events.  Using historic data, the students
could investigate the probability of an 8.8 happening again this
year(i.e. using Gutenberg-Richter plots).  Of course all this requires a
lot of design and thought for the instructor.  
Then we could talk about tornadoes....
I also just came from a meeting of the Illinois Association of
Geoscience Instructors, and learned that several faculty at Lincoln Land
Community College has added videos on YouTube.  All your students use
YouTube, and it is a way to incorporate some personal touches and
interactions with your students.
To try to combat that 'lone wolf' feeling for my online students, in the
first week I ask them to post a photo of themselves to some general
information questions (why are you taking this class, what do you want
to learn about most, what is 1 thing you have done that you want the
class to know about) and then put it together into a photo album I post
to a general discussion board.  This way they can attach a name to a
face (I also include myself).
Hope this helps, and apologies for the ramblings.
Dave

David H. Voorhees
Assistant Professor of Earth Science and Geology
Waubonsee Community College
Rt 47 @ Waubonsee Drive
Sugar Grove, IL 60554
630.466.2783
[log in to unmask]
http://chat.wcc.cc.il.us/~dvoorhee/
>>> Frank Granshaw <[log in to unmask]> 02/25/10 10:16 AM >>>
Hello everyone...

For the past four years I have been attempting to develop a fully
on-line earth science sequence for  non-science majors.  In our system
we call it the general science sequence.  At the end of this year I will
be "retiring" from teaching distance courses and making the
recommendation that we stay with a hybrid sequence (on-campus lab)
rather than attempt to go fully on-line.  As a point of closure I would
be most interested in hearing from some of you that have been involved
in similar efforts.  In particular I would appreciate hearing about how
you have dealt with the following issues or if you know of research
dealing with these issues.

Encouraging inquiry and problem solving in on-line environments - My
experience has been that the on-line experience is a highly scripted one
that doesn't lend itself easily to the kinds of flexibility and
open-endedness that is a hallmark of inquiry-based instruction.  This
scriptedness also makes teaching earth science on-line somewhat
problematic, since the earth sciences are a bit "messier" than math,
physics, chemistry, or accounting.
Providing the kind of near instantaneous, social trouble shooting that
is part of an on-campus course -  The asynchronous aspect tends to slow
down many activities quite significantly.  We have tried
video-conferencing options such as Elluminate, but this adds a level of
technical complication for students who are still struggling with basic
technical tasks such as sending an attachment to an email.
Coping with student expectations about distance courses -  I sense there
is a certain amount of scuttlebutt amongst students (and maybe even
advise from college counselors) that if you are looking for an easy way
to fill a requirement take an on-line course.  Students seem to arrive
in our courses with the illusion that they will be spending far less
time completing an on-line course than they will its on-campus
equivalent.  They also seem to arrive with the impression that the
experience will be a canned, "work-at-your own pace" experience.
Coping with student frustrations - For much of the past four years,
we've spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out how to
deal with the many frustrations students have expressed on-line.  While
many of these frustrations are rooted in the all-to-common technical
difficulties that come with teaching on-line, my own hypothesis is that
many more of these frustrations stem from students finding on-line
science different from their expectations, trying to work alone without
the support of instructors and other students, and their own discomfort
with science (e.g. "Science isn't my thing").  Add to this the anonymity
of email communication and you often get students expressing themselves
in ways that they would not do in a face-to-face encounter.  

Again, I am quite interested in hearing from any of you who have had
experience with these issues or know of research dealing with them,
especially as I make my recommendations to our DL folks and the
instructors who will inherit these courses.

Cheers
Frank G.

Frank D. Granshaw
Earth Science Instructor
Portland Community College
Sylvania Campus
Portland, OR 
503-977-8236

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