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5 Ways to Supplement Your Online Class

A question we hear frequently from instructors that use our materials is how to best supplement their online classes. They have the lectures online and the lab kits, but what are additional ways to engage their students? Our resident scientist and pedagogy genius, Dr. Duane Cagle, weighs in on 5 ways to supplement your courses:

  1. Video content

Students learn better when you give them video. Video gives students more context and visualization on different concepts and allows them to come away with more information. Especially when you are teaching lab science, showing will always be better than telling, and video allows us to tell.

  1. Peer interaction among students

Allowing your students to interact with their labs could greatly improve their learning outcomes. While this is difficult in a distance learning course, video calling platforms- like Skype- make is easy for remote students to interact. When students interact, it gives them a chance to vocalize and understand their data at a deeper level. Furthermore, it allows students to teach each other different concepts, thus solidifying their understanding.

  1. LMS Integration

Giving your students a seamless learning environment will cut down on frustration and give students the chance to focus on what really matters: learning. Luckily our HOLCloud platform can integrate with all the most popular Learning Management Systems.

  1. Newsletters

Keeping your information relevant is important. A lot of instructors and professors write newsletters that update students on news relating to topics discussed in class. For example, if you are teaching students about genetics, a news article about new developments in CRISPR could keep students’ interest.

  1. Linking your lab material and lecture material

“A challenge for a lot of students taking science is relating to the information presented,” says Duane Cagle, our resident scientist. If you have a lecture attached with your lab course, you need to ensure that the two are relating. It will only be confusing for students if the two seem disconnected.

students in a classroom

Are Online Sciences Classes Effective?

Distance and online education is growing. In the Fall of 2016, there were over 6 million students taking at least one online course. Clayton Christensen, a business professor at Harvard University, believes that as many as half of American universities will close in the next two decades due to competition from online and distance education. Outside of the classroom, more and more college students are avoiding  academic advising in a face-to-face setting. As there is a greater push for distance education, it raises the question of whether or not these kinds of classes are as effective as a traditional college setting.

Since distance and online education are relatively new topics, or at least new to mainstream popularity, there isn’t an enormous amount of research on this topic. However, there are a few early studies, which suggest online education is as effective, if not more, than a traditional education.

A recent survey conducted by the Learning House asked 1,500 students who engaged in online education their thoughts on their experiences. From this survey, 86% of the respondents thought that the degree they received was equal or greater in value than the tuition they paid. So from a student perspective, it has a good return on investment! Furthermore, 85% of the respondents thought that their online education was as good as or better than a traditional setting. Looking at this, students clearly value online education.

However, just because students perceivably like online more traditional, it does not mean it is necessarily a better education. Luckily, there are a few studies which can clue us in on this, as well. A study done in 2004 at the University of Connecticut found that students taking food safety courses in a distance setting did as well as students in the traditional setting. This was determined by looking at performance from students in both groups, while also looking at factors like time spent studying, language barriers, etc. Furthermore, research done by professors at MIT, Harvard, and China’s Tsinghua University, found that students taking massive open online courses (MOOC) learn just as much as students in a traditional setting, regardless of their prior knowledge of the material.

So far the signs look pretty good for the effectiveness of online classes. However, Teachnology brings up a fair point when considering the effectiveness of online education. Education is a give-and-take experience. Many students will get out of it what they put in. This is true in a traditional format, as well as a distance format. A lazy student in a traditional setting may not do much better in an online or distance setting. However, there are also many different learning styles depending on the person. For some, a traditional education may be better for their learning need, while for others online education is an obvious choice.

digital education

Is Distance Learning the Future of Education?

We live in a world that is constantly changing. Nothing today seems to be the same as ten years ago. Education is not excluded from this. But where is education headed? I think the direction is obvious: digital and distance.

Let’s make a distinction between the two, quickly. While Hands-On Labs is digital and distance learning, not all digital education is distance, and not all distance education is digital. For example, before the summer of 2016, HOL was only distance. We didn’t have a digital platform that assisted in student learning, but instead packaged our kits with documents and PDFs. On the flip side, there are plenty of ways in which physical classrooms incorporate digital elements into their teaching. This is sometimes called “digital technology in the classroom (DTC)”.

While it is possible to have distance learning without digital, I think it is needless to say that the most effective distance education programs will be incorporated into the digital landscape. So even if there is a difference between digital and distance, we should visualize distance as also meaning digital. However, not all digital has to be distance.

With this, will distance learning be the future of education?

To answer this question, we should think about who distance learning benefits the most:

  1. Non-traditional students
  2. Younger students
  3. Students on a tight budget

For non-traditional students, the benefits speak for themselves. Attending and going through a traditional college education is incredibly time consuming, and time is something many non-traditional students don’t have. Whether it is because they have a family, a job, etc., distance learning caters to the schedule of the non-traditional student. According to Jenny Jopling, the President of the U.S. Distance Learning Association, “the non-traditional student population has exploded through distance learning.”

For younger students, digital atmospheres are something they know best. As Tyler Wantulok from Pine Cove Consulting puts it, students demand technology in education and younger students are digital natives. People reaching college age today don’t personally remember a world without smartphones, and their expectations are highly digital!

For students on a tight budget, distance learning provides a more affordable option. While some digital education materials can cost close to physical courses, there are a lot of hidden costs in traditional education: room and board within a college town, meal plans, traveling to campus, etc. Digital education eliminates all that needless cost!

Finally, to understand the future of education, we should take a brief look at the recent past of education. Has distance education been growing? Luckily for us, the Babson Survey Research Group has performed phenomenal research in this area in their online learning survey.

student working on computer

According to Babson Survey Research Group’s survey, the percentage of students that are enrolled in some distance education has increased by 3.4% between 2012 and 2016. ‘Some distance education’ meaning the students are enrolled in a mix of traditional courses and distance education courses. According to the same survey, the percentage of students that are enrolled in entirely distance education has increased by 2.3% between 2012 and 2016. Overall, there has been an increase in the usage of distance learning by 5.7% between 2012 and 2016.

In raw number, including both graduate and undergraduate students, there has been an increase of 933,715 students taking distance education courses between 2012 and 2016. In 2016, there was a total of 6,359,121 students that were enrolled in some kind of distance education! Of these students, 68.9% were enrolled in a public institution.

Looking at these numbers, distance education is quite significant in education as a whole, however there is a lot of progress to be made if it will truly be the “future of education”, as traditional students still make up a massive majority in college education.

While there is progress to be made, Clayton Christenson, a professor at Harvard Business School, believes that in the next ten to fifteen years nearly half of American universities will close or go bankrupt due to online education. However, if colleges keep up with the changing winds, they can survive. In the end, only time will tell. The education market is incredibly complicated, and many factors will play into what it looks like in a decade.

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What is the HOLCloud?

The future of education is in accessible technology. In 2016, public schools in the United States were already spending over $3 billion per year in creating and providing digital content to students. Clay Christenson, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, believes that as much as half of American universities run the risk of closure or bankruptcy due to competition from distance and digital education alternatives. Paired with the rising costs in traditional college education in the United States, students are certainly already looking for alternatives.

This is why we developed our cloud platform. We can see that the future is in accessible technology, and we want to help universities get there. Hands-On Labs has always been devoted to distance education and developing a great curriculum for students and professors to reach their goals. Originally, we would deliver our labs through hard copy documents and PDFs. However, now we fully embrace a digital platform!

“Essentially, the HOLCloud is an online delivery mechanism for our curriculum,” says Dr. Duane Cagle, our on-site scientist and product solutions consultant, “we developed the cloud in the summer of 2016, and instructors couldn’t be happier with results.”

What Does HOLCloud Look Like?

The HOLCloud on the student side is incredibly straight forward. When students login, they will have a dashboard for their course, which will display the pre-requisites and lessons. All lessons are locked until the prerequisites are completed and the student has received their lab materials to enter in their kit code.HOLCloud Class List

In the lessons, students will go through different phases: exploration, experimentation, and evaluation. Our exploration section contains targeted background content meant to prepare students to perform the experiment in the next section. Our experimentation section guides the student through their lab exercise and in using their materials. This is the bulk of the student’s lesson. Below you will find an image of what this section generally looks like:

Example of HOLCloud Lesson

Lastly, there is the evaluation section, which tests the student knowledge over a given subject. This section comes with true or false questions, matching questions, and open response answers. The students will receive immediate feedback on all their answers except for the open response answers, which are graded by the instructor. Also, this is where the student uploads all their data from the lab.

On the instructor side, you have many different areas in which you can see all your students’ progress in their course. Below you will see an example of our most basic dashboard:

Example of HOLCloud Dashboard

What Can HOLCloud Do?

HOLCloud can do a lot that makes both the student’s and the instructor’s life much easier. Below we look at some of its key functions:

  1. It integrates with most Learning Management Systems.
  2. Instructors can easily customize their lessons with additional notes, images, and videos.
  3. New courses can be set up in almost an instant.
  4. An easy to use gradebook for instructors to keep track of their students’ progress in the course(s).

These are our most favorite aspects of our cloud platform because we think it is what makes it unique. However, if you are an instructor, we would love to show it to you directly! Set up a free demo with one of our sales associates today!

Request a Demo!

Online Science Educator Certification Course

IEDSE Launches Course for Online Science Educators

DENVER, CO: The Institute for Excellence in Distance Science Education (IEDSE) has announced the launch the Online Science Educator Certification Course (OSE). The OSE Course prepares instructors to teach online science courses with innovative, inquiry-based pedagogies.

“The OSE Course is a unique opportunity for all instructors considering breaking into a career in online education, or for all seasoned educators who want to improve their online teaching skills,” said Maggie Gaddis, OSE course facilitator. “It is designed with connectivism in mind, a new learning theory that promotes higher order thinking by creating a learning culture in which the students and the educator seek knowledge together.”

The course is being offered as an eight-week asynchronous online class, designed to accommodate the schedules of busy professionals. The first start date is March 15, 2015. The course has defined start dates and end dates, but there is no appointed time or day to be online. Participants determine the schedule and pace that is right for them. Scholarships are available. For more information, visit www.sciencecourseforeducators.com.

Hands-On Learning is a platinum sponsor of the OSE Course and offers $500 scholarships to qualified candidates. To apply for a scholarship, visit http://holscience.com/scholarship.

About IEDSE
The Institute for Excellence in Distance Science Education is a 501c3, tax-exempt, non-profit science education foundation with a mission to promote science literacy in conjunction with today’s distance education delivery methods. IEDSE serves distance education students by training and assisting teachers in best practices and proven methods of effectively teaching laboratory science courses online. IEDSE creates and provides comprehensive professional development programs and supportive resources for secondary and post-secondary science educators. For additional information, visit www.iedse.org.