INCORPORATION OF AUTHENTIC RESEARCH IN ONLINE GEOSCIENCE CLASSROOMS THROUGH FIELD INVESTIGATIONS IN STUDENTS' LOCAL ENVIRONMENTS (Invited Presentation)
Our online paleontology courses involved student location, collection, and identification of local fossil specimens in order to reconstruct past regional paleoenvironments. Conversely, in an online tectonics course, students located, collected, and submitted a naturally deposited sand sample. We provided photomicrographs of the sand samples to students, and the sand became a portal for the reconstruction of local geologic and tectonic history.
Not all projects in online classrooms involved field collection. In an investigation into dinosaur trackways, students relied on local volunteers to document the stride lengths and speeds of humans using both their preferred and maximal gaits. All students uploaded data to our course website. From a composite spreadsheet, the class produced a graph of relative stride length versus dimensionless speed using Alexander’s formula. Students were then required to create and document their own public trackway display.
Through multiple semesters and various courses, we observed that students’ average performance on local field investigations and project assignments was superior to other course assessments. Several results were significant, and we propose that self-directed local field assignments maximize learning gains for our students. Anonymous end-of-semester surveys also revealed positive reflection and student enjoyment toward these self-directed projects and field assignments. Therefore, we encourage online instructors to implement autonomous projects within students’ local areas. Through the use of detailed checklists and rubrics, student products can be assessed within reasonable instructor time commitments.