On the Road with Online Science

By: Brianna Horvat, Hands-on Labs Inc.

Hands-On Labs (HOL) invited California and Ohio educators out of their offices to talk online science over lunch or evening cocktails. CEO and Co-founder, Linda Jeschofnig, teamed up with HOL’s National Accounts Manager, Naomi Buckta, andColorado Community College-Online’s Microbiology Professor, Cynthia Alonzo. These events provided opportunities to meet educators and answer their questions in a small group setting.
There were a variety of engaging conversations, including a lot of excitement about our new Forensic Science LabPaq. However, five questions kept surfacing so we’d like to share them here:

1.

How do you put a science course online?

Putting your science course online is much easier than it seems. Most of your existing resources (PowerPoint/SlideShare presentations, Word documents, etc.) can transfer directly into the online learning environment. There is also a variety of free, digital content available, such as MIT Open Courseware, to supplement your lessons.

2.

How can you prevent students from cheating in an online course?

To minimize cheating, you can implement some proven practices, such as giving unique assignments every semester, requiring discussion board participation, and assigning weekly, reinforcing quizzes. You can go further and impose strict time limits on tests and quizzes within your learning management system (LMS). Also, it’s easy to make sure students to not “copy/paste” their assignments by using anti-plagiarism software. Some favorites:

  • iThenticate  – Called “the world’s largest comparison database of scholarly content, this program boasts over 20 billion web pages and 30 million published works to ensure everything running through it is original.
  • TurnItIn  – One of the leading programs sold off Plagiarism.com, this software is compatible with over 50 LMS. It started as a per review application by four Berkely graduate students.

3.

How do you integrate a LabPaq into a LMS?

Very easily and smoothly! The lab manual loads directly into your course shell. It contains links to the assigned experiments for students to follow as they perform them. Your quizzes and assignments can also be built into the LMS. Use discussion boards, wikis, and electronic, online journals to form a collaborative learning dimension to the laboratory experience. Use Skype to encourage professor-student face time. It’s also a cost-effective option that most students have available to them.

4.

Speaking of students, what about them? Are LabPaqs better/easy for them to use?

Yes, LabPaqs are better for some students – especially those that have full-time jobs, children, no transportation, worry about the cost of gas if they won a car, or simply learn better by doing experiments at their own pace.

As for easy, off-campus students are held to the same standards as their on-campus peers. Each kit comes with academically aligned science experiments that match the institutions curriculum requirements for credit. The only thins “easy” about LabPaqs are ordering them and setting up the experiments.

To order, students enter our online store and input their institution’s login and password (supplied by their instructors). They’ll see their institution’s catalog page containing only the LabPaqs chosen by administration. This feature eliminates students ordering the wrong LabPaqs.

Each LabPaq comes with high-quality materials and lab manual CD. The lab manual encompasses entire experiments, from safety to set up to clean up, ensuring students perform them correctly and maximize their learning experience.

5.

I like this LabPaq idea! How can I give my department/team more information?

The best way to experience the benefits of our LabPaqs is hands on! One of our regional account executives can bring you a lunch and a LabPaq, and answer your questions about online science.  When you’re ready for lunch and a LabPaq, let us know!

That’s what we heard in California. What are the concerns about online science where you teach?

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