89th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting

Monday, 12 January 2009
Online weather studies at Gavilan: year three
Hall 5 (Phoenix Convention Center)
Andrew H. Van Tuyl, Gavilan College, Gilroy, CA
In 2008, Online Weather Studies was taught at Gavilan for a third consecutive year. The course continued to be presented as online-only, with optional orientation meetings at the start of each semester. These meetings were generally rather sparsely attended.

The year 2008 was also the first full year of Moodle, the new course management system, which replaced Etudes in mid-2007. The transition went smoothly, with virtually no difficulty encountered in importing the course to the new program. The Forum feature in Moodle proved especially useful, both for general communication and for classroom discussion. One Forum allows the instructor to send simultaneous messages to all students; another permits students to ask questions of either the instructor or of other students. All Moodle Forums are subscribed, meaning that copies of posts are sent automatically to each student's email address. This feature helps maintain communication with students who rarely log in.

Classroom discussion was more strongly emphasized than in the past, comprising 10 percent of the total grade. Students responded to questions posted by the instructor, and their replies were subjectively evaluated. Results were only partially successful; some students did not participate at all, and genuine discussion was difficult to generate, although some did take place. It is planned to continue the discussions for the foreseeable future, however.

The problem of attrition remains; retention rates average just above 50 percent, typical of many online courses. Early communication with non-participating students, found to be useful in other courses, will be given more attention here. Beginning the discussion forums earlier in the semester, as a means of increasing initial student interaction, may also be attempted. The aim is to decrease the isolation online students often feel, thus making them less likely to drift away from the class.

Supplementary URL: