Creating a good atmosphere in your Online Ocean/Weather Studies courses

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Monday, 18 January 2010
Virginia M. Ragan, Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods, Kansas City, MO

Best Practices in online courses is more than the newest set of educational buzz words. Following a best practices plan allows a student to focus on course work rather than wonder how to maneuver successfully through your course. In the diverse setting of the Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, MO over 27% of our students are people of color. Fifty nations are represented, and 78% of students work while attending classes. No matter what field students choose, they need laboratory science courses to earn an AA degree. In 1999 the Geology/Geography Department at MCC-Maple Woods added AMS Online Weather Studies to its Internet courses and Ocean Studies in 2007.

AMS Weather Studies and Ocean Studies provide the tools necessary to create dynamic learning in my online courses for students with diverse backgrounds. Learning Investigations require activities that are straightforward for some, because they have previously been exposed to maps, graphs, and models. Others have never drawn a simple line graph. There are also possibilities for learning beyond reading the textbook ,and completing Learning Investigations. Video clips, interactive maps, satellite images, and simulations are delightful for some students and a complete mystery to others. The problem for an instructor is how to enable students from diverse backgrounds to complete assignments successfully, give information in a class forum, and ask questions when they need help.

An instructor using best practices introduces students to new learning adventure in the topics included in Weather Studies or Ocean Studies courses, and explains how to get quick answers if they reach a sticking point. Students are able to access and complete assignments successfully. They understand how to use the tools and extras provided for them on the course website and on the AMS websites. They become acquainted with instructor and other students, and feel secure enough to contribute to class discussion and ask questions. Student questions and peer review help an instructor improve the course(s) regularly. As weaker students improve they cease to fear science become involved in the rich learning experience.