A hybrid Online Weather course using archive files

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Monday, 18 January 2010
Pedro Ramirez, California State University, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA; and S. LaDochy

Handout (48.9 kB)

The AMS Weather course was offered for the first time at CSULA during the fall quarter of 2006 and has been offered every quarter since, excepting summers, . The course is a hybrid one combining online delivery of instructional materials and face-to-face laboratory meetings. Students meet once a week for the optional laboratory period to discuss chapter concepts and weekly assignments. Attendance for the optional meeting is very good and students attending usually do well in the course. Because our academic year begins in late September and the fall AMS course earlier that month, the online portion of the course resides on the university server with a unique Internet address. To make the semester-long, 12-week Online Weather course compatible with our 10-week quarter , the instructor archives most of the weekly files and squeezes 12 weekly assignments into ten weeks. Also, because of our shorter schedule, two chapters are sometimes covered in one week.

The course homepage, http://instructional1.calstatela.edu/sladoch/geog170.htm, shows links to archived Online Weather assignments, the Datastreme Atmosphere homepage, the class syllabus, other useful weather links, and the instructor's webpage. Because of space limitations, previously posted assignments are removed, although they remain active for several weeks. Included among the assignments are additional online exercises such as a Hurricane Katrina activity. Popular and educational field trips to the local National Weather Service Forecast Office compliment the course. Occasionally, NWS forecasters visit the classroom.

The advantages of our hybrid course, compared to the traditional lecture format means fewer on-campus hours for our mostly commuting, full-time working students. Increased computer literacy makes students more comfortable with online courses, as this mode of instruction becomes more common on our campus. However, the in-person laboratory does provide benefits. The CSULA student population consists mostly minority students, many requiring remedial math, English or both. Face-to-face meetings allow students to finish assignments or get extra help. Students are also encouraged to work with partners or groups, which adds a social component to the mainly online course. Anecdotically, student performances are better in the hybrid course than in the traditional course. Student evaluations since 2006 showed that a majority found the instructor's overall teaching ability at either excellent or very good. Similarly, a majority of students would recommend the instructor to others. Several students stated that they liked the course online as it allowed more time for studying class materials and reading the textbook. Course enrollments have increased from about 20 in 2006 to approximately 40 today.