2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)
Paper No. 144-12
Presentation Time: 4:45 PM-5:00 PM


PHILLIPS, Michael A., Natural Sciences, Illinois Valley Community College, 815 N. Orlando Smith Ave, Oglesby, IL 61348-9692, mike_phillips@ivcc.edu and SHIELDS, William, Geography & Geology, Illinois State Unversity, Campus Box 4400, 206 Felmley Hall, Normal, IL 61790-4400

As more classes move on-line, faculty need to ensure that student experiences and outcomes are equivalent to traditional courses. One key aspect of any successful course is effective communication, and communication in on-line courses is a mixed bag.

On the positive side, all course materials can be made easily accessible. A well-designed course web site helps to ensure most students read the class requirements, and links to web-based resources can provide access to engaging materials and dispense immediate feedback to students. In addition, asynchronous discussions allow for thoughtful, reflective discourse in an environment that decreases student anxieties that inhibit face-to-face group discussions.

On the negative side, students can fall quickly behind when there are no regularly scheduled class meetings. Students can become frustrated when several days of back-and-forth e-communications are required to clarify and resolve confusion about the subject material or course requirements. Dialog between instructor and student does not benefit the class as a whole as it might in a classroom setting.

To address some of the negative aspects of on-line instruction, the Geology Department at Illinois State University has developed instructional space in Second Life, a virtual world where students and faculty interact real-time. On-line students have the opportunity to meet twice weekly to discuss each course unit. While presenting the material, the instructor can check student understanding and pause to clarify points of confusion. Students can ask questions real-time and receive an immediate response to the benefit of themselves and their classmates. Other additions to the course include presentation of student work in a “public” forum and participation in simulations of geologic phenomena. Technical issues are addressed by requiring students to participate in an orientation session in Second Life prior to the beginning of the semester.

The result is an on-line class enhanced by the benefits of real-time interactions and an engaging environment. Student response to the Second Life component has been overwhelmingly positive. Student engagement as measured by participation in asynchronous discussions, on-time work submission, and attendance at Second Life sessions were high through the eight-week course.

2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 144
From Virtual Globes to Geoblogs: Digital Innovations in Geoscience Research, Education, and Outreach
Oregon Convention Center: B117/118/119
1:30 PM-5:30 PM, Monday, 19 October 2009

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 41, No. 7, p. 385

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