Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:30 AM


LESTER, Alan, Dept. of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, UCB 399, Boulder, CO 80309,

Science educators have long been aware that intangible factors such as student feelings, emotions, and attitudes can have a sizable impact on learning. In recent years geoscience education research has demonstrated how these factors, part of what has been termed the “affective domain,” influence student performance and outcomes. Online courses, drawing on modern technologies, have become quite efficient at disseminating and delivering information; but they lack the personal real-time contact that can often generate positive attitudes and behaviors associated with the affective domain. An online geology course is described in which outdoor adventure videos are used to enhance student interest and motivation.

At the University of Colorado, Boulder, my online introductory geology courses have received over 90% positive written feedback, with student commentary being focused on two particular aspects of the course: 1) Instructor availability (primarily through email and assignment-return, but augmented by availability of phone and audio-visual tools), and 2) Intriguing still-images and videos that present geology through adventurous outdoor activities, namely rock climbing and flying airplanes.

Outdoor-adventure videos (including several produced by Discovery and History Channels) showcase geology not just as science, but also from my perspective as a highly experienced rock climber literally using rocks, and as a commercial pilot who often views rocks and landforms from a unique aerial vantage.

Student feedback indicates that rock climbing and aviation are found to be quite engaging, largely because they are outside the normal realm of expectations associated with either a science course or a science professor. And because the videos are effectively stories that share enjoyment and excitement for the natural world, they serve as highly personal introductions to various geological topics. Sharing one’s personal connection to a discipline not only influences students on the level of the affective domain, but it reduces perceived distance between student and instructor, thereby enhancing the beneficial aspect of “immediacy” in the classroom.