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Taylor and Harris Rim Fire 2014

Alan Taylor (right) and Lucas Harris investigate past and present fire in Yosemite National Park.


Lucas Harris and Alan Taylor conduct field work in Yosemite National Park inside the perimeter of the 2013 Rim Fire, the third largest in California history. The Rim Fire burned over an area Taylor studied 10 years ago providing a unique opportunity to quantify the effects of the fire. Another fire started in Yosemite while they were there this year. It has burned 4700 acres so far and is responsible for the smoke you can see in the picture.


Corene Matyas (Ph.D. ‘05) has been named Colonel Allan R. and Margaret G. Crow Term Professor by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University Florida for 2014–2015. CLAS Term Professorships are awarded to outstanding faculty who excel in both scholarship and teaching. These professorships, funded entirely by private sources, allow the college to recognize faculty who are making a significant difference in the classroom as well as through their scholarship.

Wei Luo passed his Ph.D. dissertation defense on July 23, 2014.  He starts his post-doc position in the School of Computing, Informatics & Decision Systems Engineering at Arizona State University this coming fall. He will work on the NGA project to address national security risks of climate change:


U Betula: Meet my assistants for the 2014 field season
Last summer I had great pleasure working in the field with two good friends, though not at the same time. This summer I am working with two research assistants throughout the summer. I am hopeful that having three people in the field with both speed up the sampling as well as provide a safer work environment on these remote mountain peaks.

World’s cocoa crop could get a big boost from a simple, non-toxic spray
Cocoa farmers this year will lose an estimated 30 to 40 percent of their crop to pests and disease, and with chocolate prices having risen globally by roughly two-thirds in the past decade, concern is growing about sustainability in cocoa production. Of particular concern are the environmental impact and human health risks of toxic agrichemicals – organochloride insecticides and heavy-metal-based fungicides – used in cocoa production to fight pests and disease.

You Can Help Map the Ebola Zone and Fight the Outbreak
To fight the worst Ebola outbreak in history, the American Red Cross is attempting to get ahead of the virus by creating the most detailed maps of rural towns and villages so officials can track the deadly virus as it spreads. The aid group is enlisting volunteers—maybe even you—to help map the areas hard hit by the virus through its Geographic Information System program. Anyone who wants to volunteer can join online.

Recently published

Peer Grading in a MOOC: Reliability, Validity, and Perceived Effects
By Luo, H., Robinson, A. C., & Park, J. Y.
In Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 18(2), 1-14
Peer grading offers a scalable and sustainable way of providing assessment and feedback to a massive student population. However, currently there is little empirical evidence to support the credentials of peer grading as a learning assessment method in the MOOC context. To address this research need, this study examined 1,825 peer grading assignments collected from a Coursera MOOC with the purpose of investigating the reliability and validity of peer grading, as well as its perceived effects on students’ MOOC learning experience. The empirical findings provide evidence that the aggregate of student graders can provide peer grading scores fairly consistent and highly similar to instructor grading scores. Student survey responses also indicate peer grading activities to be well received by a majority of MOOC students, who believe it was fair, useful, beneficial, and would recommend it to be included in future MOOC offerings. Based on the empirical results, this study concludes with a set of principles for designing and implementing peer grading activities in the MOOC context.

Effect of Geographic Distance on Distance Education: An Empirical Study.
By Luo, H., Robinson, A.C., & Detwiler, J. (2014)
In Journal of Educators Online (JEO), 11(3), 1-26
This study investigates the effect of geographic distance on students’ distance learning experience with the aim to provide tentative answers to a fundamental question – does geographic distance matter in distance education? Using educational outcome data collected from an online master’s program in Geographic Information Systems, this study calculates the distance between students’ residences and the program location, and employs three hierarchical multiple regression models to examine how well geographic distance can predict a student’s online learning performance, satisfaction with the program, and length of time to complete, when controlling for other relevant factors. Our research findings provide empirical evidence to support the claim that the development of information and communication technologies (ICTs) has in fact overcome the potential barriers that may be associated with distance in education and has provided an effective bridge between students and educational programs. The study also reveals interesting discoveries regarding the relationship between students’ distance learning experience and certain student characteristics such as age, gender, and previous academic achievement.



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