Online Weather and Oceanography: Meeting the needs of a diverse student body at Alaska Pacific University

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Monday, 18 January 2010
Richard L. Myers Jr., Alaska Pacific University, Anchorage, AK

Handout (22.0 kB)

AMS' Online Weather and Oceanography courses have been used to provide science education to several student populations at Alaska Pacific University. These populations include traditional undergraduate students, returning adult learners, and rural Alaskan natives. Additionally, the student populations include science and non-science majors at both the lower and upper divisions. AMS' online weather and oceanography courses form the core of seven different courses at Alaska Pacific University. Four of these are taught on campus and meet weekly: a lower division weather course, an upper division weather course, a lower division oceanography course, and an upper division oceanography course. The remaining three courses are taught totally online and include a lower division courses in weather, a lower division course in oceanography and a one credit-hour weather lab that is for students who have taken a science course, but need to fulfill the laboratory requirement.

The four courses taught on campus are taken by traditional undergraduate students. The lower division and upper division courses are taught together. Additional requirements of the upper division students, who are mainly science majors, include completing additional chapters in the workbook, conducting experiments, and completing a self-selected project. Projects have reflected the student's individual interest. Some examples include building weather turbines with elementary school students, setting up a home weather station, preparing a pamphlet on how to interpret weather for backcountry use, and reviewing and interpreting popular films such as Twister or The Perfect Storm.

The greatest benefit of the AMS course has been to provide a general science elective for rural Alaska native students and returning adult learners. Many of students live in remote Alaska villages. Additionally the work and family obligations of these students preclude matriculation in a traditional degree seeking program. Course material is presented through Moodle and Elluminate. An online chat, PowerPoint presentation, and question/answer session is presented on Monday of each week during the term and material from one chapter is due the following Monday. During the last five years approximately 100 Alaska native learners have completed either the weather or oceanography course. Without this option it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for most of these students to fulfill a laboratory science requirement.