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

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Colorado Goes the Distance for Online Education

Webinars; lab experiments anywhere, anytime; and virtual field trips can easily transport students from standard classroom lessons to fulfilling experiences many miles away. Distance learning methods like these complement existing teaching strategies and also help fulfill graduation requirements that can otherwise be difficult to accomplish. With National Distance Learning Week (NDLW) taking place November 7 – 11th, the newly formed Colorado Distance Learning Association (ColoDLA) emphasizes the benefits of incorporating distance education in the classroom.

“With the rapid growth of technology worldwide, distance learning is often viewed as a necessary evil, but we really want to see it become the necessary good,” said Emma Richardson, president of the ColoDLA. “And as technology improves and becomes more accessible, it becomes easier for people to collaborate over the Internet and video networks. Everyone realizes it’s not going away and we focus on how to make it a positive tool, not a hindrance for education.”

ColoDLA was established in 2010 and is the state’s first official distance learning organization. Richardson stated that ColoDLA’s early focus has been on simply getting started by establishing itself as a connective group for distance learning programs across the state, identifying board members and securing sponsors.

Hands-On Labs (HOL) is a founding ColoDLA member and sponsor that’s been involved from the beginning. Casey Pelton, director of sales for HOL, is pleased with the company’s involvement thus far. “We’re able to share our experience and help others, which is really our focus with expanding distance science education,” Pelton said. “Thanks to our relationship with ColoDLA, we’ll be able to better work with different groups, not only K-12, but also higher education. [We’ll have] stronger contacts, brand awareness, all the things that will be beneficial for our company.”

With connections to groups like ColoDLA and the U.S. Distance Learning Association, online education programs and traditional brick and mortar schools can find assistance writing grants and securing equipment that enables distance learning. “Because we’ve reached a point that could really be considered a technology crossroads, we’re able to write the grant, get the software, get the video conferencing and then tap into that conferencing across the country,” Pelton said.

Currently, more than 3.5 million college students are taking online courses and/or earning online college degrees. At the secondary school level, more than 700,000 high school students are taking one or more courses online. NDLW raises awareness of the growth and accomplishments of distance learning programs offered by schools, businesses and governmental departments across the country.

Show Your Support 

The U.S. Distance Learning Association suggests:

  • Providing a link from your website, wiki or blog to the NDLW site.
  • Sending an email to your students, colleagues or other contacts inviting them to the NDLW site or to your own NDLW promotional event.
  • Participating in one or more of the webinars, covering pre K-12/home schooling, blended learning, military/government and mobile learning.
  • Learning more about NDLW.
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