2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 2:00 PM


SCHULTZ, Richard B., Department of Geography and Environmental Planning, Elmhurst College, 190 Prospect Avenue, Elmhurst, IL 60126-3296, richs@elmhurst.edu

A recent trend has shown a large upsurge in the number of online course offerings in the sciences. The Geosciences seem to be lagging behind as chemistry, biology, and physics courses greatly outnumber earth science-oriented online classes. While admittedly the geoscience courses involve lab and fieldwork, the lack of published data in this area seems to point to evidence that online geoscience courses are ineffective and do not promote learning as compared with on-ground courses.

In separate comparisons of two online and on-ground geoscience courses, (one Weather and Climate course at a four–year liberal arts college and one Physical Geology course at a community college), results indicate no significant difference between the two student group results (online and on-ground). In fact, statistical analyses actually point to a slight advantage in learning taking place in the online environment as compared to the on-ground setting.

There are several methodologies that were used in this study to make a fair comparison. Among these are modes of presentation: PowerPoint presentations, interactive lab exercises, and CD-ROM animations. These were available to both online and on-ground students as part of the course. Additionally, all students were of the same general type: undergraduate, mostly non-science majors, mostly traditional students (with some non-traditional students in each course), and taking the course at the same time of year (Fall). The same textbook was used for both online and on-ground courses in the respective disciplines.

Results will be presented indicative of the effectiveness of both mediums of presentation but with special emphasis on the increased participation of students in the online environment. The majority of the presentation focuses on the discussion board technique and how it is implemented into both online and on-ground settings to improve collaborative learning and student participation.