Emerging trends in online STEM lab design

In the first four parts of our series on online STEM labs, we looked at why online faculty choose to develop an online lab course, the diversity of lab solutions faculty implemented to meet course objectives, how to engage online lab students, and special assessment considerations within the context of online STEM labs. In this fifth and final part of our series, we take a look at some cutting edge efforts to improve teaching and learning in terms of both technical solutions and pedagogical approaches.

Special assessment considerations with online labs

Do online STEM labs present unusually challenging circumstances for assessment? Yes, and no. In this fourth part of our five-part series discussing online STEM labs, we’re taking a look at the special assessment considerations inherent in online labs and how some faculty have tackled the challenge.

Engaging the online lab STEM student

Motivating students to take ownership of their learning can be challenging, especially for online students who are often juggling work, family and more. This week’s Teaching Tip shares four ways to better engage students in online STEM labs.

Taxonomy of online lab solutions

There are many choices to consider when selecting a particular approach to designing online labs. In this second part of our four-part series on online STEM lab courses, we’re going to take a look at four main categories of online lab experiences and consider their respective strengths and weaknesses. When making design decisions for your online labs, return to and refocus on your intended objectives before tackling the question of how to get there.

Developing online STEM lab courses

Online education has come a long way. The days of online courses that mirrored self-paced correspondence courses of old are thankfully behind us. Quality, instructor-led online courses regularly feature-rich interaction, hands-on active learning, and engaging media content. However, STEM lab courses are still often seen as particularly challenging to develop for online delivery. In this first of a four-part series addressing online STEM lab courses, we’re going to address the question of why one might want to explore online modalities.

Let’s make some media!

Whether you’re creating or updating an online course or experimenting with blending online and face-to-face modes, rich, original media can improve your course. Opportunities abound to enhance your presence and provide your unique perspective.

Invention and Quality

In this discussion-driven session we will collaboratively construct a history of invention related to teaching and learning. Within this context we will address quality and more specifically, we will situate Quality Matters. Questions to consider: How do we learn? Do...

How to evaluate alignment within your course

Key structural course components should work together to support intended learning outcomes. Considering alignment helps us focus on our designs for student understanding, and spend time looking at how various course elements support those goals.

Creating significant learning experiences

Our purpose as instructors is to facilitate new student understandings. But, what are understandings? Are there different kinds? It seems they can be simple, such as remembering the elements of the periodic table, or extremely complex, such as discovering new knowledge about oneself and one’s relationship with the world.

Visions of the future in your reflection

Finals are over and hopefully mostly graded. The real end is in sight and our eyes are all firmly fixed ahead toward the quiet green of summer. However, right now there’s a great opportunity to do as much to improve your teaching next semester as anything.

Online education – part 2

Last week we discussed the gold standard of online learning experience design: Your course is complete prior to students ever sitting in their virtual seats. Your intended outcomes are firmly in your sights and you can now devote time during the semester to feedback, assessment, and mentoring. Your solid design and your consistent presence work together to achieve everyone’s educational dreams.

Why we teach

As we emerge from the caverns of winter and slip from the madness of March into bright, warm April and true spring, maybe it is safe to take a moment and ask ourselves why we do it. Given our current budget challenges, it is perhaps even essential we ask the question. What is our source of inspiration? What is the real reason we teach?

Word vs. Blackboard

Many instructors spent frenzied final hours before launch wrestling content into Blackboard. One frequent source of challenge is that nearly all of us develop our lectures, notes and syllabi in Microsoft Word and when we transfer these materials online, we unwittingly wander into a decades old battleground. We innocently expect that we should be able to copy and paste from our Word document directly into Blackboard. But the potential layers of complexity and conflict can be more than frustrating.

Instructor voice

The other day I asked an emeritus faculty member where he derived his teaching style from. Looking back on a stunning 35 years of instructional experience, he said he had a great mentor instructor in undergraduate school and thought, “I want to be like him.”

Discussion prompts II

Last week we talked about how designing some tension into discussions can yield a more engaging student experience. This is often my first suggestion when I hear from faculty that student discussions seem lacking. This week the inquiry centers around timing. Just like hosting a dinner party, timing the various course elements is critical when designing student interactions.

Discussion prompts

Designing quality discussion prompts can be a challenge whether building an online discussion forum or trying to better engage the classroom learner. As instructors, we’ve all asked questions of our students that failed to lead them to our verdant garden, blossoming with student ideas. Instead, at one time or another, we’ve led students to deserts of superficial or pat answers that lay shriveled in darkness with only the chirping of crickets as adulation.

Roleplay

Explicit roleplay has a rich history in education. Law students use mock-trials to hone their craft; counselors roleplay client contact sessions, and many disciplines require students give presentations or perform project work while acting in the role of the professional they hope to become. In fact, the dialectical method of Socrates is a form of roleplay, wherein participants adopt an aspect for an argument not necessarily their own.

Practical gamification

In our last teaching tip we talked about the power of play and how celebrating successes, while minimizing the consequences of failure, can foster an environment of experimentation and discovery. In short, these are key elements that help make learning more fun. This week, we’re going to look at a practical examples of this principle applied in classrooms here at UAF.

The power of play

From our earliest stages of cognitive development, we have learned from play. Play urges the player to try over and over again even as she repeatedly fails; play generates its own persistence, encouraging the player to continue caring even after her obligation to do so has ended; play is an active celebration of deeper understanding, such that the great players in any field, from baseball to physics, are remembered and celebrated for how well they played.