Teaching Tips for Online Science Instructors

Collaboration and the discussion of lab results is an important part of the learning process in any science course and can be easily incorporated into online-science courses via their Discussion Boards. Among the tips we give science instructors are the following on scheduling the due dates for lab reports and lab discussions:

  • Schedule the due date for Lab Reports to be on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. Since most students do their lab assignments on the weekend, they may not be able to get immediate help if they run into problems. This delay also gives students time to reflect upon and reinforce what they experienced and learned in performing the lab before rushing to write their Lab Report. It is important to let students know the purpose of this due-date shift. Otherwise, they will be tempted to perform their labs the night before and the purpose behind the due-date shift will be negated.
  • Encourage Lab-Report postings to the Discussion Board on Wednesday and Thursday. This allows students to compare and contrast their observations and data with other students, further clarifying their thinking and reinforcing key concepts. Exercises utilizing combined class data can often be developed from this information. Since all lab reports will have already been submitted, students can’t utilize other’s information so there is no impact on academic integrity.

Resources to Help Struggling Students

Key1.jpgHow can instructors help struggling students who need tutoring and more assistance than the course time allows? For students willing to put in the extra time and energy to genuinely grasp difficult concepts, there are many new websites that can effectively serve in a self-guided tutoring role. These sites provide students with visual and interactive aids that may drive their understanding better than traditional textual explanations.  They also provide instructors with easy access to a history of the students’ activities and progress.

Most people think of the Khan Academy as just a collection of videos on various educational topics. However, it and similar tutorial sites like instaGrok have expanded into much larger interactive platforms that provide students with active learning and assessment tools and instructors with evaluation and tracking tools. These sites span areas of interest from elementary to college levels and cover the majority of academic topics, including the sciences. Plus, they are free!
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Tools to Lighten the Chore of Lab Report (and Essay) Grading

By Linda Jeschofnig

Peter and I give numerous “best practices” presentation to online and soon-to-be online educators. One thing that recently became obvious is how few educators are aware of the “Track Changes” feature within their MS Word program and how this tool can make grading lab reports and other essay assignments a breeze to review and edit. One simply types in corrections, lines out errors, and inserts comments where needed. Like the traditional red pen, these corrections show up in a different color, making them easy for students to spot and follow. Student can use the same feature to expand upon the paper and return comments to the instructor; these too will show up in a different color. Here’s a two-minute tutorial to help get started: Click Here>>

Another tool that makes grading easy is to have students submit their reports and essays via Google Docs. The process is very similar in that the instructor’s corrections, changes, and comments can display in a different color, plus every correction is time-stamped and easy to see by clicking “Revision History” via the File drop-down menu. Google Docs is also an excellent tool for group projects since each student’s contributions can be separately identified and it’s easy to see if any students are carrying the majority of the project burden.

Some of the more recent advanced editions of LMS systems have similar capabilities. However, many institutions don’t yet have these upgrades, and often in those that do, the instructors aren’t aware they exist.

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