The rock kits sound like a good idea. Thanks, I'll give that a  

Robert C. Thomas, Ph.D.
Department of Environmental Sciences
The University of Montana Western
Dillon, MT 59725
(406) 683-7615
[log in to unmask]

"I'll know my song well, before I start singin'"...Dylan

On Feb 25, 2010, at 12:07 PM, Dawes, Ralph wrote:

> Hi Frank,
> In the Geology of the Pacific Northwest class I teach online, we  
> havenít been having the problems you describe. It seems like there  
> may be several keys to this.
> One key may be how I respond to the students frequently on all  
> discussions and assignments with in-depth feedback, in which I try  
> to consistently refer to the expected outcomes and standards for  
> each assignment or discussion, and provide encouragement to help the  
> students keep building toward achievement of those standards.
> Another key is recognizing and acknowledging the students for who  
> they are and having them share their life experiences. This is done  
> with some of the more interesting guided discussion topics, which  
> bring out their encounters with geology, experiences with  
> earthquakes and volcanoes or floods (or stories of such encounters  
> they heard from relatives or friends), beautiful geological places  
> they have visited, and so on -- life experiences that are meaningful  
> to them and which help them get to know each other.
> Another thing we have the students do is a field project much like  
> what Rob Thomas mentions, with their results shared with each other  
> via pictures and summaries of their geologic interpretations of  
> their field sites.
> The students in PNW Geology online also work with real rocks and  
> geologic maps from a lab kit they buy. The rocks and maps provide a  
> basis for several intensive, discussion rich exercises, including  
> examples and diagrams modeling what the student will be doing  
> themselves to interpret structures on the geologic map, or the rocks  
> in terms of the rock cycle. They also engage in social learning by  
> discussing their rocks in groups after attempting to identifying the  
> rocks once to see how they did, and then they get to try again. I  
> like it when they start sending pictures of their rocks around and  
> talking (writing) about them on the basis of the pictures, though  
> that does not always happen.
> On the whole, the results have been about as good as, or sometimes  
> better than, my in-person PNW Geology class.
> --Ralph
> Ralph Dawes, Ph.D.
> Earth Sciences
> Wenatchee Valley College
> 1300 Fifth Street
> Wenatchee, WA 98801
> (509) 682-6754
> [log in to unmask]
> From: Frank Granshaw [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2010 8:16 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: On-line earth science courses: Experiences and research
> 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