15th Symposium on Education


Completely Online Weather Courses at CSUN

Gong-Yuh Lin, California State Univ., Northridge, California

At California State University, Northridge, the online teaching program began in fall 1999 with 8 GE courses offered. In order to encourage faculty members to be engaged in GE online courses, the university IT team offered webct workshops every semester. More than 600 faculty members have attended the workshops during the past five years. Each workshop covers the topics of creating homepage, image database, content module, quiz, bulletinboard, and chatroom using webct software. The software programs such as photoshop, power point, and dreamweaver were also offered to enhance the instructor's ability to manipulate various kinds of files and to create a webpage. The university provided an incentive program awarding faculty members who teach a GE online course the first time with $2,000. Some college deans considered online teaching as a significant criterion in favor of merit salary increase. Some department chairs offered 3-unit release time to online teaching participants. The purpose of the university's online teaching policy is to accelerate the rate of graduation for undergraduate students.

The author began to teach a completely online atmosphere course (Geography 311)in fall 2003 using webct program to create a homepage that includes all materials used for the regular classes taught in the past. Meanwhile, the geography department obtained the AMS online weather studies license. In Spring 2004, The author began to teach a partially online weather class (Geography 103). The lecture was delivered in the classroom while the examinations were conducted online. Online Weather Studies and Study Guide were adopted as course textbooks. Students were requested to complete some of exercises in the Study Guide as classroom and home works. Photoshop software was used to edit weather maps and stuve diagram obtained from the website of AMS online weather studies. Arrows were placed on the maps or stuve diagram pointing to the features of interest. A short explanation of the features was placed at the end of the arrow. For example, an arrow is used to point to the air pressure code on the upper-right corner of the station and followed by the explanation of air pressure it represents. So far, I have developed 4 completely online courses: weather , atmosphere, air pollution, and boundary-layer climatology. Weather course fulfills lower-division GE requirement. Atmosphere course fulfills upper-division GE requirement. Air pollution and boundary-layer climatology meet the major's requirement. The CSUN will offer 66 online courses in fall 2005. Four of them are weather and atmosphere online courses.

The main webct tools used for my online weather classes include content module, image database, and quiz. All quiz materials are in these three tool pages. Content module contains lecture notes and quiz study guides with links of interested weather websites and video files. Image database covers figures and tables for quiz preparations. Quiz page includes practice questions and real quiz questions. The course homepage includes these three tool icons in addition to some other tools of interest, such as study instruction, course syllabus, my grades, bulleinboard and weather loop. Animation icons in homepage are used to enhance visual effect.

The workshop of AMS online weather studies the author attended on May 16-21 2004 provided an excellent opportunity to enhance the author's knowledge of using various products from NWS for online course presentations. In contrast to the contemporary weather textbooks, the author's online weather and atmosphere courses contain image databases that use real weather maps and stuve diagram so that students would not feel out of the touch with the reality. The NCEP products, satellite photos, and radar imageries presented by the leaders of the NWS during the workshop provided invaluable sources of online teaching materials. The subjects on numerical weather prediction as well as satellite and radar interpretations learned from the workshop were incorporated into my online courses in the content module, image database, and quiz.

The enrollment of the online courses increased significantly as compared to the regular classroom courses I taught before. All GE courses that the author offered reached full enrollment within a few days of the opening of registration. The overall student performance in the online classes is about the same as the regular classes, judging from the class grade distribution curves.

For my completely online courses, the communications between students and instructor are achieved by email and bulletinboard. The communications by phone and office-visit are discouraged because they defeat the completely online purpose. A few students in the online classes always had troubles with computers when taking the examinations or even tried to beat the webct security. The online instructor must be expected that many virus-infected emails sent to him frequently.

extended abstract  Extended Abstract (424K)

Supplementary URL: http://www.csun.edu/~hcgeg004/AMSarticle05ARIALR.pdf

Poster Session 1, Educational Initiatives
Sunday, 29 January 2006, 5:30 PM-7:00 PM, Exhibit Hall A2

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