Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 3:15 PM


ANBAR, Ariel D.1, HORODYSKYJ, Lev2, BEN-NAIM, Dror3 and SEMKEN, Steven2, (1)School of Earth and Space Exploration and Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ 85287-1404, (2)School of Earth and Space Exploration, Arizona State University, PO Box 871404, Tempe, AZ 85287-1404, (3)Smart Sparrow, LLC, Sydney, Australia,

Climate change and other geoscience-infused challenges facing society today require public understanding that science is not a body of facts organized by discipline, but an active process, often crossing disciplines, that narrows uncertainties. Unfortunately, the traditional large lecture classes through which most college students learn science are passive, teacher-centered, and disciplinary, reinforcing misconceptions about the nature of science. Unique attributes of the online environment that could address this problem are underutilized in the initial wave of online courses, including massive open online courses (MOOCs). We hypothesize that emerging online technologies, and the curricula they enable, can address this challenge.

To test this hypothesis, over the past three years we developed and offered Habitable Worlds, an online-only astrobiology course. The curriculum is based on the Drake Equation, which meaningfully integrates concepts from astronomy, chemistry, geoscience, life science, and the social sciences. A major learning goal is mastery of the fundamentals of the greenhouse effect, a cornerstone of planetary habitability. The pedagogy is organized around a term-long, individualized, game-inspired project in which each student must find and characterize rare habitable planets in a randomized field of hundreds of stars using concepts learned in the course. This project motivates learning, which occurs in interactive and adaptive inquiry-driven tutorials, featuring feedback and pathways that adapt to student abilities, built using an intelligent tutoring system (Smart Sparrow's Adaptive eLearning Platform - AeLP). These tutorials are self-grading, freeing teaching staff for direct and intense student-teacher interactions. Through the lab-like project and tutorials, students construct knowledge from experience, modeling the authentic practice of science while mastering complex concepts.

We are assessing the effectiveness of this approach using robust data and analysis tools incorporated in the AeLP and the Piazza platform used for student-teacher interaction. These tools allow us to investigate how students interact with the exercises, and their concept mastery, in aggregate and at the individual level, to a degree not possible in traditional classroom settings.