87th AMS Annual Meeting

Sunday, 14 January 2007
Teaching Online Weather at Gavilan College
Exhibit Hall C (Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center)
Andrew H. Van Tuyl, Gavilan College, Gilroy, CA
Online Weather Studies was offered at Gavilan College for the first time during Spring Semester 2006, following an unsuccessful attempt the previous fall. Thirty students were enrolled at the beginning of the semester, although only eleven completed the course. This attrition rate is evidently not unusual for online courses. The final course size of eleven was in fact fortuitous, given the usual problems encountered in first-time implementation.

The course was offered under the name Physical Science 2 (PSCI2) as a totally online class. However, three on-campus meetings were held throughout the semester, with progressively declining attendance. Some of the students desired a strictly online course (as it had been advertised) and objected to any meetings. Nevertheless, other students found the meetings useful, particularly for getting oriented to the Gavilan and AMS websites.

Grading was based on lab assignments (50 percent), a midterm exam (20 percent), and a final exam (30 percent). Lab assignments were submitted principally by electronic mail, with the maps faxed to Gavilan for later pickup. This faxing and retrieval of maps was somewhat inconvenient; an improved method is envisioned for Fall semester. Each student received an individual login to Etudes, the online class software employed by Gavilan. Etudes was used to post grades, send messages, and give examinations; it also allows students to communicate with each other and with the instructor in several different forums, although this option was rarely used.

Despite the various difficulties, the debut of Online Weather Studies at Gavilan was definitely successful, with some students informally stating that they enjoyed or would recommend the course. Improvements will undoubtedly result from the experience gained in this first attempt.

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