Sunday, 9 February 2003
An Analysis of Enrollment, Technology Access, Organization, and Cultural Components in an Online Weather Studies Course at the University of North Dakota
An Online Weather Studies course developed by the American Meteorological Society was implemented at the University of North Dakota beginning Autumn Semester 2002. Coordinated by the Indians Into Geological Sciences (INGEOS) program, part of the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering in the School of Engineering and Mines, the course was conducted completely on-line with the exception of two introductory class meetings. The Department of Atmospheric Sciences in the School of Aerospace assisted in course and syllabus review process. In order for the course to be considered for science credit, it was determined that laboratory teams of 2-4 students were to be used for all on-line exercises. Lab teams also were also required to meet every two weeks to physically coordinate course work. For this study, four components of the course were analyzed: 1.) enrollment fluctuation, 2.) technology access, 3.) on-line organization, and 4.) multicultural aspects. Enrollment fluctuation analysis indicated that although advertising for the course began in the Summer of 2002 and a late start date was allowed, the initial enrollment number of four students was not an indicator of the final enrollment number: after the first of two initial class introductory meetings, enrollment jumped to over 50 then finalized at 41 students. It was determined that student-to-student word of mouth after the first initial meeting was the primary catalyst for the enrollment surge. An analysis of access to technology indicated that all students, even those in rural areas, not only had access to technology, but also were technically competent. An analysis of on-line organizational aspects (distance learners, password distribution, student registration, laboratory team meeting coordination, etc.) indicated that challenges were primarily procedural in nature and inherent in the development and initial offering of a new course. Organizational challenges resulted only in occasional delays. An analysis of multicultural aspects indicated that language barriers and material prices resulted in Hispanic students dropping the course, gender based concerns and advice from tribal elders negatively impacted enrollment of American Indian students, and a low regional population of Asian and Black Americans served as the primary factor their non-enrollment. Finally, although not included as an analysis component, two unanticipated results were noted due to the development of laboratory team intra and inter relationships: 1) all teams exceeded the required number of meeting times as well as the minimum hour requirement, 2.) all laboratory teams engaged in quasi-competitive challenges. Students indicated that these social factors enhanced the overall quality of the course.