Southeastern Section - 54th Annual Meeting (March 17–18, 2005)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 1:40 PM


THOMAS, Christopher W., Department of Geology, Indiana Univ Purdue Univ Indianapolis (IUPUI), 723 W. Michigan St. SL 118, Indianapolis, IN 46202,

Initial rollout of an online Environmental Geology course at IUPUI doubled enrollment over existing lecture sections for Spring ‘05. IUPUI Geology is moving lecture-based service courses into online-only offerings to meet growing student demand at this urban branch campus for online courses that fulfill liberal arts distribution requirements. To capture these students, a well designed online course is crucial towards exposing students to geosciences and drawing in new majors. As a small geoscience department, we were at a disadvantage to larger programs on campus that were expanding online offerings. However, an instructor with basic XHTML knowledge can develop courses using existing course management software (Blackboard, WebCT), befriending campus teaching/learning consultants found at most campuses, and learning basic principles of e-learning, visual design, and online communication. With the IUPUI model, learning modules replace lectures; all modules have the same architecture, visual design, and common interface that offers higher usability. For a modest fee, private or on-campus web designers develop the initial module, style sheets, and overall framework. With assistance of instructional learning staff, an instructor uses industry standard web design software to copy/paste the architecture to create as many modules as needed. Modules are organized into objectives, readings, “lecture”, and assessments, with common links to specific library resources, instructor contact info, and syllabus. “Lectures” are subdivided by links, spread over multiple pages to minimize scrolling and increase user interaction; multiple headings and section links help users organize information; content is chunked into small paragraphs to ease on screen reading; and numerous graphics, animations, sidebars, and context sensitive external links meet the different learning styles of students and satisfy the shorter attention span of online readers. In lieu of large tests, numerous small assessments assess student learning and reducing cheating; students must complete assessments and modules on a schedule similar to an on-campus course. Discussion groups, quizzes, collaborative assignments, and a publisher’s CD-based interactive assignments measure students against each module’s learning objectives.