While my Earth science classes are in person, students also have the flexibility to take them online any day, week, or semester.
To make the online class sync with my in-person class, I make all assignments due online, and I create short video lectures that parallel the in class lectures.
Here’s one of my video lectures from my pressure unit:
To bring some of these class concepts to live, we’ll do simple experiments with household items or food. Here’s the activity I mention at the end of that lecture video:
Online, students submit a picture of the outcome of their experiment. I like to have these experiments, too, so they can do the class away from the computer for a moment.
Every semester, students say how much they like the activities, and ask for more.
For this activity, I have students make ice cubes out of color liquid. If online students don’t have any orange juice or food dye, I ask them to draw a picture of what they expect will happen. This experiment shows how we get straight-line wind from thunderstorms:
In addition to hands-on activities, I include a lot of field videos in each unit. Here’s a 360-degree video of a Doppler radar in action:
I also show students how to read the sky. In this video, I explain how the look of the sky indicates the arrival of a warm front:
The information shared in these lecture videos and field videos is duplicated in my picture-rich PowerPoints and again in text-heavy online readings. With the same course material in different mediums, students get to choose the style(s) of learning that suits them best. All of these resources also serve as our textbook for the class.
After we do the activity, online and in-person students answer questions, often making deductions based on what they learned from the experiment. I also like to have some questions with movie clips. We’ll draw a parallel from our activity to the scene from the movie. The goal? Decide if Hollywood got its science right or wrong.
After students submit the activity or a quiz, they see the answer and a response explaining why that answer is correct for each question. If they got the question wrong, they can learn from their mistake and get a question like that on the final correct.
I’m honored and humbled to get Penn State Lehigh Valley’s 2017 Teaching Excellence Award.
At the end of a semester, a few students usually email me their thoughts about the course out of the blue. Here are a few excerpts from the unsolicited emails I’ve received:
- John: “I really enjoyed the Earth 101 class. You have given me a greater understanding and appreciation for the topics we covered. I am very grateful for that. You made learning fun and enjoyable. I have never had a science class that I enjoyed until I took your class.”
- Braelin: “Also I would just like to add that I really enjoyed your class, I think the way you teach it is really effective in making us understand weather without making it too complicated, because I feel like its easier to retain the information the way you teach it. Also your energy keeps the content interesting! I’ve recommended your class to a bunch of my friends!”
- Christopher: “This class was awesome! I really enjoyed all the lessons, but the space and volcano modules we’re my favorite. Between the videos, PowerPoints, summarys, and related articles I was really able to get a grasp of the topics. I thought you gave us plenty of time to complete each module, and I like the assortment of take we had to do. The labs are a lot of fun and the quizzes are interesting and not intimidating.”
- Daniel: “Honestly, you’re an amazing professor and I hope to see you around campus again. I would take another one of your courses, it matched my scheduled perfectly but my credits are maxed for GN (science general education courses).”
- Connor: “Thanks for such an insightful and fun class, Drew! Great to meet you and truly experience your class.”
- Elizabeth: “I just wanted to say thank you so much for making this class so interesting and fun!”
- Alyssa: “Just wanted to let you know I appreciate how you ran your class it was very different compared to all my classes, and it’s very beneficial.”
- Kristen: “I had a great time being in your class. You made it very fun and enjoyable.”
- Lauren: “I’m truly going to miss this class and you making it a blast!”
- Laura: “That was definitely by far one of the most helpful responses any teacher has ever given me, thank you so much!! I think it’s great that you give so more options to learn the material. I am an early childhood education major and that is one of the things we are taught to do. So far you are one of the only teachers I have had who does that!”
- Natasha: “You are an amazing professor I’ll miss seeing you walking on desktop .”
- Timothy: “It’s awesome once and awhile to get a teacher who is as upbeat and positive as you so thank you.”
- Marcus: “Thank you for everything! This has been one of my favorite classes. The interaction you had with the students was phenomenal. Having the videos with examples, powerpoints with examples, guest speakers, etc. You gave us all students, the best possible way to get a high grade.”
- Alex: “I just wanted to let you know that I had a great time taking this course. It was very interesting material that I thought I’d never know! You are a very interesting professor and I enjoy you humor.”
- Allie: “I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for being a professor that loves what they do and the subject they teach. Thank you for making class fun, and for being available. I am the type of student that hated science and doesn’t generally have good grades until I took your class. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would love to take another one of your classes if it works in my schedule.”