Sunday, 14 January 2007
Overcoming inertia: Building acceptance of and interest in new meteorology and oceanography courses
Exhibit Hall C (Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center)
In 2005 I began planning two new courses, meteorology and oceanography, for J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. College administrators desired courses that would support teacher training and certification programs, and I developed the courses accordingly, but with a personal goal of broadening the college's offerings in science by making the courses acceptable for all interested students. I selected the American Meteorological Society's Online Weather Studies and Online Ocean Studies as templates and used historical Virginia Community College System identifiers, NAS 125 (Meteorology) and MAR 110 (Introductory Oceanography), for the courses, as these were described by VCCS as suitable for teacher certification or recertification – in keeping with the primary goal of college administrators. The first course, meteorology, was offered in the spring of 2006, while the second, oceanography, was offered in the fall of 2006. Both courses suffered from low enrollments. Possible contributing factors to the low enrollments include lack of familiarity or awareness among potentially interested students and faculty advisors, resistance among the science faculty to accept the courses as lab sciences, concerns over transferability of the courses to other institutions, and competition with other programs offering similar courses – some containing essentially identical material, but giving graduate credits. Efforts to overcome these obstacles are described.