Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:35 PM
COMPARING AN ONLINE AND TRADITIONAL PHYSICAL GEOLOGY COURSE: AN ASSESSMENT OF STUDENT PERFORMANCE
Online courses not only afford students the flexibility of taking a course without temporal or geographic constraints, but also allow instructors to utilize a variety of technological tools not available in a traditional lecture format for the deliverly of learning material through new and innovative techniques. These courses encourage students to use a variety of digital media and prepare them for communicating with colleagues in a global community. Unlike traditional lecture courses, online courses require students to be self-directed learners through varied methods of course delivery. Capitalizing on the unique environment of an online course, students in an introductory geology course are encouraged to complete a variety of quantitative activities using real data sets and finding additional information beyond that which is provided by the textbook. Additionally, students improve their asynchronous online communication skills by working on several group projects throughout the semester, thus fostering a sense of community. However, despite these advantages, a common concern regarding online courses is that the students in an online course do not learn as much as students in a traditional lecture course. Pre-course and post-course assessments are used to examine if students in an online introductory geology course learn the same basic geologic concepts as students in a traditional lecture-style course. Over 6 semesters, the assessment scores generated from over 1200 students in traditional lecture courses and over 400 students in online courses are compared. Results of statistical analyses show that students learn the same basic geologic concepts in both online and traditional lecture classes. These results suggest that online introductory courses that include active learning materials are a viable substitution for traditional lecture introductory courses.