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[1] Mickle, J.E., Aune, P. (2008).  Development of a Laboratory Course in Nonmajors General Biology for Distance Education. Journal of College Science Teaching, May/June, 35-39. 

 This article begins by discussing issues associated with incorporating labs in an online science course, without requiring students to come to campus.  The authors then describe an online biology course where a kit of materials was developed that allowed students to conduct experiments at home, while giving them hands-on experience doing science in a safe way.  This article is relevant to my research interests, in that it provides an example of the successful design and implementation of a lab-based online science course. 


[2] Gilman, S.L. (2006). Do Online Labs Work? An Assessment of an Online Lab on Cell Division. The American Biology Teacher, November/December, 131-134. 

In this study, the author measured the effectiveness of a cell division lab exercise for science majors conducted either online or on-campus.  The authors found that students who performed the online lab exercise scored slightly higher on a post-activity quiz than their on-campus counterparts (12.1 versus 10.8 out of 15 points, respectively). However, students noted that they missed the interactions with their classmates and with the instructor. As a result, it was proposed that there be a greater use of online course tools such as discussion forums in order to reduce this sense of working alone.  While the authors concluded that this lab exercise was a good fit for online learning, they suggested that more open-ended, inquiry-based activities might not work in an online setting.  In my own research, I found that in-service science teachers can readily engage in open-ended inquiries in an online course.  However, is this also the case for the undergraduate majors and/or nonmajors that I currently teach?


[3] Rodriguez, J., Ortiz, I., Dvorsky, E. (2006).  Introducing Evolution Using Online Activities in a Nonmajor Biology Course. Journal of College Science Teaching, May/June, 31-35 

This paper describes a study of two introductory biology courses, in which the learning objectives and activities allowed students to “apply scientific thinking skills, elaborate research questions, propose hypotheses, design experiments, and present their results.”  The authors used four online programs (EvoDots, FrogPond, PhyloStrat, and PopCycle) and discussion forums to support students’ learning of genetics and evolution.  Their findings show that when comparing pre- to post-tests, students who completed these online activities performed 37% higher, whereas students who did not only scored 15.8% higher.  The authors, however, did not discuss the extent to which online students applied their scientific skills through hypothesis formation, experimental design, etc. This is an area of interest that relates to my research project.

 

[4] Limson, M., Witzlib, C., Deshamais, R.A. (2007). Using Web-Based Simulations to Promote Inquiry. Science Scope, February, 36-42. 

This study explores the use of an online resource that “engage[s] students in an inquiry-based study of the principles of genetic inheritance.”  This study was of particular interest to me since I have used this resource in an online genetics course for in-service teachers.  Using this program, students can select and mate flies with particular traits, observe the resulting offspring characteristics, develop hypotheses, and perform back-crosses to confirm or refute these hypotheses.  The authors found that students indeed applied the skills of scientific inquiry.  In addition, students reported a fuller understanding of genotype and phenotypes as a result of this online, inquiry-based activity.  This made me wonder, though, which aspect(s) of this project best supported student learning.  Was it the animations contained within these online activities, the inquiry-based nature of these activities, or some combination of these two?

 

[5] Styer, S.C. (2009). Constructing and Using Case Studies in Genetics to Engage Students in Active Learning. The American Biology Teacher, 71, 142-143.  

This paper discusses the use of case studies in the teaching of Genetics.  This does not specifically discuss the use of case studies in distance learning, however, it does discuss its role in actively engaging students and allowing them to “experience critical thinking inherent in the science process.”  When using case studies, the author discusses an approach of not giving all of the information initially in order to promote their thinking skills.  The author also shares a number of case study resources.  After attending a conference last year hosted by UBuffalo’s National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (which was also referenced in this article), I became interested in using case studies in my own courses.  I would like to determine what affect (if any) these might have on online student learning.

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES  

Both of these reports provide valuable information related to distance learning.  I am sharing these citations here for those who are also interested in online teaching and learning.


U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development. (2009). Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies, Washington, D.C.  Retrieved July 6, 2009 from: http://www.ed.gov/rschstat/eval/tech/evidence-based-practices/finalreport.pdf

 

National Science Foundation.  (2008). Fostering Learning in the Networked World: The Cyberlearning Opportunity and Challenge A 21st Century Agenda for the National Science Foundation. Report of the NSF Task Force on Cyberlearning, Washington, D.C.  Retrieved July 6, 2009 from: http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2008/nsf08204/nsf08204.pdf

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