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


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.

Prevent low test scores

By Laura Yaun

Studies have shown that anxiety and depression compete with the working memory in the brain. Expressive writing has been proven to help depressed and traumatized people overcome emotional worries that take up the working memory space of their brains. Students who are given the opportunity to write about their worries, test related or not, before an exam, achieve higher grades.

In addition to writing away your worries, below are…

15 simple, but often forgotten about, ways to help students test successfully

1.Review materials after each class when it is still fresh in your mind. Study throughout the course. Cramming the night before is not enough time for your brain to retain all of the information that you need. Studying for two hours at a time, completely concentrated is more conducive than studying for eight hours straight.

2.Practicing problems, rereading materials, rewriting your notes, and drawing pictures or graphs will help burn the information into your mind.

3.Read aloud or teach what you’ve learned to a friend or family member. Talking about it helps you understand it even better. Also, they may ask a question that you can’t answer, so you would know what to brush up on.

4.Review studied material when you wake and right before sleep. When you sleep, your brain will process what you have just learned. When you wake, your brain is fresh and more susceptible to new information.

5.Sleep well the night before an exam so your brain is functioning optimally.

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