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.

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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:

Using Videos to Enrich Your Teaching of Online Science Courses

 By Peter Jeschofnig, PhD, Founder of IEDSE: Institute for Excellence in Distance Science Education and Co-Author of “Teaching Lab Science Courses Online”

ComputerMedia_webNo matter how carefully we design the content of a new online science course, once we start teaching and getting student feedback, we learn that students often need extra help and additional clarification with certain course concepts and assignments.  After teaching a course once, it becomes obvious where we need to incorporate supplemental materials to create a much improved subsequent offering.   Among the many improvements made should be instructional video clips snatched from the plethora of multi-media teaching tools available online.

Most instructors use short video clips in face-to-face classes to get a discussion started, explain an especially difficult concept, show a hazardous demonstration, or share a fun experience.  The idea of enriching a class with videos is even more essential in the online learning environment.

Online classes should start with a personal instructor and course introduction video.  This gives the students a unique connection and means to establish rapport with the instructor plus can help enhance and clarify the course content, structure, and expectations.  The instructor’s willingness to share his/her image and enthusiasm for the subject greatly enhances students excitement about what they will be learning and sets the stage for the robust class discussions that are at the heart of online learning. Continue reading

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