What Makes for a Successful Online Course in Science Education?

What Makes for a Successful Online Course in Science Education?

When Dr. Scott Townsend first contemplated teaching a 6-week “Trends in Science Education” graduate course completely online, he was perplexed. How could he possibly facilitate effective experimentation and engagement—in a timeframe that constituted only 40% of a traditional semester?

He soon discovered how effective planning, innovative technologies, and an active virtual presence in the course would make all the difference.

Dr. Townsend started with a goal of examining major concepts of engineering, technology, and science within the context of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). He then integrated information from STEM and NGSS workshops and conferences to establish concrete course objectives. He emphasized professional development as a primary part of the course so that students—who are teachers themselves—could take their learning directly into their own classrooms. The course’s modular structure built upon itself and offered hands-on activities, discussion of experiences inside the virtual classroom, and articles and videos for support and clarification. 

The course includes a plethora of digital technologies but is also user friendly, with discussions via forums and blogs; reflections through journals; group work via wikis; interactive presentations and quizzes; and rich media like TED Talks and introductory videos for each module. 

Perhaps most important, Dr. Townsend maintains a clear online presence from the beginning to the end of the course. From a welcome announcement to one winding up the course and at all points in between, Dr. Townsend strives to ensure that students know that he is right there, working along with them.

The course has earned a 2014 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Exemplary Course as well as a Directors Choice for Courses with Distinction.

Planning, innovation, and an active presence: just as in the physical classroom, these are three determinant factors in making an online course successful. Are you interested in enrolling in an EKU Online course? Learn more at http://ekuonline.eku.edu.

Published on April 01, 2014