Paper No. 49-1
Presentation Time: 1:35 PM
LESSONS LEARNED: COVID-19 AND RETHINKING NON-MAJORS GEOSCIENCE COURSES AT A REGIONAL FOUR-YEAR UNIVERSITY
In the spring of 2020, three geoscience courses were being taught at Missouri Western State University when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the US. These included lower- and upper-level courses intended for minors and general studies students. These courses were primarily in-person, with minimal on-line components. During spring break all classes at the University pivoted to fully online. For each class I used different techniques to transform the material for the online offerings. These were tailored to the academic level of the class, where the class was in the syllabus when the pivot happened, and the ease with which in-person assignments could be transformed to or completed in an online format. The University gave students four options after having seen the requirements for their classes: withdraw from a class completely, if they were passing at midterm accept a CR (credit) on their transcript for the class and do no more work for the remainder of the semester, continue the class and earn a letter grade, or request an incomplete (I) and finish their coursework in the summer. About 25 – 30% of the students in the geoscience courses chose to receive a CR (passing credit), with the rest choosing to remain in the class for a letter grade. The final class averages were within the average range for normal semesters. In the 2020 – 2021 academic year in-person classes met, but were held at half capacity. We offered three geoscience courses during this time. Challenges have included meeting in multiple lecture rooms, laboratories that could only accommodate half a class at a time, and making all meetings and assignments available in an online or homework format. Using the lessons learned from the past year and a half, the “normal” geoscience classes are now being redesigned to the benefit of the students and instructor. The necessity of making lecture and lab activities available in an online format led to the re-evaluation of those activities, and their order and fit into the larger framework of the courses. The heavy reliance on the publisher’s online materials during the COVID-19 year also highlighted their usefulness and importance to student learning. What began as a burden has turned out to be a bonus.