Facebook: It’s Not Just For Cat Videos Anymore

By Geralyn M. Caplan, Associate Professor of Biology, Owensboro Community & Technical College

facebook-groups-logo-350-aI was sitting at a Biology meeting recently and started to talk about the success I have had using Facebook in my Anatomy & Physiology (AP) course. The group I was talking to acted like I just betrayed the teaching profession. The first comment was along the lines of, “They spend too much time on Facebook now.” That is right. The students spend a lot of time on Facebook but I always felt it was best to fish where the fish are. I reach them because they are already there.

When we made the move to extend my Anatomy and Physiology module online to meet demand I felt I had removed a lot of the critical student and teacher interaction. Our adjunct professors were essentially using a canned course. I wanted a format that the adjunct professors could use to share material and ideas with all of the students. My own IT staff did not think the students would become involved in a Facebook group. What occurred was not what I planned and it was not what I expected. It was so much better. Continue reading

5 Essential Elements of an Online Science Lab Syllabus

Based on a white paper By Linda and Dr. Peter Jeschofnig, Co-Founders of Hands-On Labs & IEDSE (The Institute for Excellence in Distance Science Education)

Online science instructors who are willing to invest initial time and energy into creating a thorough syllabus will save themselves innumerable headaches throughout the semester. An online course syllabus, regardless of the type of course being taught, needs to be very explicit and cover every aspect of the course. It should provide clear and complete explanations about how the course will be conducted and assessed plus explicitly state what is expected of the students. It should be posted as soon as possible prior to the beginning of the semester for those eager students who want to get a head start and for students to determine if the course is right for them before the refund/census drop date. It should remain posted throughout the semester so student can refer back to it when needed and as an arbitrator of disputes. Here are the five essential elements to include in an online science lab syllabus: Continue reading

Developing Procedural Knowledge via a Distance

By David Ellis, Lecturer in Technology Education, Southern Cross University

Ever tried to assemble a flat packed piece of furniture without the pictures? How about successfully landing a passenger aircraft without stepping into the cockpit? In higher education, the nature of specific disciplines requires academics to impart procedural knowledge as well as the declarative knowledge to their students. In addition, the economic packaging of learning materials in distance education lends to a ‘one-size-fits-all’ static approach that doesn’t address the differing student learning styles (McLoughlin, 1999). The challenge for a growing number of academics is not only trying to match teaching and learning styles, but to deliver this within the constraints of a digital environment via distance education. Continue reading

Flip My Science Classroom

By Kristy Kemp, Science Instructor, Kirtland Community College

flipped classroomKirtland Community College’s district is the largest in Michigan, totaling 2,500 square miles and consisting of all or part of nine counties. Our main campus is located close to the geographic center of the college’s district in rural Northern Michigan, but we have two extension campuses in our northwest (Kirtland-Gaylord) and southeast (Kirtland-West Branch) regions. Until recently, students attending those extension campuses for programs requiring a science course with a lab only had two choices: enroll in our completely online science course or drive great distances to main campus for a face-to-face science course. Many of those students were experienced and comfortable taking online courses, but there was still a population of students scared or uncomfortable with taking an online science course. Continue reading

Teaching Science Totally Online: Hands-On Lab’s LabPaqs and SoftChalk’s Cloud – Perfect Together

By Dr. James W. Brown

When I was the Dean of Science, Engineering, Health Science, and Human Performance at Ocean County College I learned about the wonders of using Hands-On LabsLabPaqs to allow us to teach laboratory-based science courses totally online using “wet labs” that could be shipped almost anywhere in the world. Additionally, SoftChalk LLC, allowed us to produce online courses far beyond anything we had produced before by adding interactivity to nearly every page of content. This changed our boring “death by outline and PowerPoint” approach into one in which we provided highly interactive content pages that were a work of art filled with learning exercises and games. We needed to produce both nursing courses and science courses to fulfill a $458,000 grant from the venerable Robert Wood Johnson Foundation which allowed us to produce a One Day per Week Nursing Program (now called the One Site/One Line Nursing Program). This program allowed students to attend clinical training one day per week while the didactic portion was delivered online. This opened up nursing to a whole new group of students who were limited by time, family commitments, work, or distance. It was an instant success and students from a much wider geographical area began coming to OCC to get their associate degree RN. This online education model addressed the hospital RN shortage crisis and has become a national model.  Continue reading

Improve Student Engagement and Learning in Online Science Courses Through “Citizen Science” Projects

By Peter Jeschofnig, Ph.D., Institute for Excellence in Distance Science Education

When teaching on-campus classes, I involved my environmental science and environmental chemistry students in semester-long environmental monitoring projects like water chemistry, stream discharge, and aquatic invertebrate monitoring. I was not surprised to find that they were much more enthused about these hands-on, experiential projects than their standard lab experimentation.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could get online students involved in similar activities? Well, with some planning, we can. Due to safety and equipment considerations, the activities cannot be exactly the same as I did with on-campus students, but there are related discovery activities that can contribute to the increase in students’ enthusiasm level beyond that of performing only traditional lab experiments.

Citizen scientists are volunteers who participate in science research by collecting and/or analyzing data for a specific science project. The concept of citizen science is quite old; and by the above definition, Charles Darwin was a citizen scientist. The Audubon Society has been using the concept for more than 100 years by getting average citizens involved in their annual bird counts. Today, numerous projects exist where citizen scientists are needed and this may be an excellent way to get online students involved in actual science projects.

Continue reading

Citizen Science in Distance Learning

By Jill Nugent, PhD student, Texas Tech University

“Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge”  ~Carl Sagan

Citizen Science PictureIn the landscape of online higher education, faculty seek to engage students in learning science content and process skills and also aim to foster science literacy for all students. Citizen science can provide a great modality to facilitate student engagement and student learning in science.

In addition, the online science lab course can be a natural fit for implementing citizen science programs into the existing curriculum, and citizen science programs offer an excellent option for open-ended lab and field investigations.

Since citizen science projects typically involve real-world issues, questioning, making observations, investigating, monitoring, recording evidence, and more, they can help to model the true nature of science and can immerse students in the exciting process of science.

Below are helpful websites that provide information on existing citizen science projects that can easily be implemented into the online science lab experience:

Some more additional exemplary resources for further reading on citizen science include the following publications:

Meet the Women Scientists of Hands-On Labs

March is Women’s History Month, and this year’s theme is “Women Inspiring Innovation Through Imagination: Celebrating Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.” Four out of the five scientists at Hands-On Labs (HOL) are women, so we thought this month was the perfect opportunity to celebrate women at HOL and introduce the hard-working scientists behind our content.

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