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Simple but Powerful Tools for Enhancing College Science Education (Sloan-C Conference, October 2009)
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Simple but Powerful Tools for Enhancing College Science Education (Sloan-C Conference, October 2009)

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Herein, I will highlight progress in introducing internet-based technologies into a majors-level introductory biology course. First, we have measured dramatic increases in personal interaction …

Herein, I will highlight progress in introducing internet-based technologies into a majors-level introductory biology course. First, we have measured dramatic increases in personal interaction between professor and students as a result of introducing Instant Messaging and online office hours. Most surprisingly, we found that in-person student visit during office hours also increased following the introduction of Instant Messaging. Thus, online student-teacher interactions help break down the barriers that prevent students from seeking out their professors in person.
Secondly, in an experimental section of Principles of Modern Biology II (Bio104), we introduced the use of pre-recorded Voice Over PowerPoint™ (VOPP) to deliver video lectures in place of selected lectures, normally delivered in class. This was run as a case-controlled study involving an experimental section and a control group (traditional lectures). We found that through the semester, student use and perceptions of video lectures evolved, aided by periodic student-led discussions. Comparisons of student performance, both in the course overall and individual exam questions directly covering material delivered by video, revealed that internet-delivered video lectures prepares students for exams as effectively as in-class lectures. SALG surveys also revealed that the majority of students find this to be an effective way to learn course material and many reported that they would often pause, rewind, and even watch the entire videos multiple times.
Lastly, we will introduce how educational modules freely available on Visionlearning.com can be integrated into a variety of science courses to facilitate distance and blended learning. This modular content is easily customizable into a “my classroom” context that incorporates student-teacher communication functions, quizzes, and assessment, if so desired. The high-quality, media-rich, peer-reviewed content is written by experts and can be used as a supplement, partial replacement, or even complete replacement of a traditional textbook.

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  • 1. Simple but Powerful Tools for Enhancing College Science Education Nathan H. Lents, Ph.D. Anthony Carpi, Ph.D. Department of Sciences John Jay College of Criminal Justice The City University of New York www.visionlearning.org [email_address]
  • 2. The Problem…
    • There is a direct positive relationship between good student-teacher contact and academic success
      • Questions, tutoring, discussion of course/subject material
      • Role models, mentoring, inspiration, motivation
      • Personal connections = personal investment
    • Unfortunately, CUNY colleges have many factors that make student-teacher interactions difficult to establish and maintain
      • Commuter schools
      • High teaching load of professors
      • Financial demographics of our students
      • Cultural differences between our students and our professors
      • Cultural demographics of our students, per se
  • 3. The idea for using IM
    • New professor at CUNY
      • Flabbergasted… NO ONE comes to office hours, asks questions by email, etc.!
    • Placed Notes on student exams requesting meeting.
      • Nothing.
    • A sound heard in class…
  • 4. The Setup
    • Halfway through the course, the professor announced that he will be available during office hours (and periodically other times) on AOL Instant Messenger.
    • Screenname: JJDrLents
    • Student-teacher contact was carefully monitored, both on IM and in-person (office hours)
    • Courses – Biology 101 and Biology 103 (General Biology)
  • 5. Data Cifuentes OE and Lents NH, submitted 2008, Electronic Journal of Science Education
  • 6. Data Lents NH and Cifuentes OE, revisions pending, Electronic Journal of Science Education
  • 7. Data Lents NH and Cifuentes OE, revisions pending, Electronic Journal of Science Education
  • 8. Data Lents NH and Cifuentes OE, revisions pending, Electronic Journal of Science Education
  • 9. Conclusions: Lessons Learned
    • Instant Messaging (IM) is a powerfully effective means to increase student-teacher contacts
    • IM breaks down barriers and makes professors seem more approachable, friendly, and interested in helping
      • both for questions regarding course content,
      • but also academic and even career advising
      • True “mentoring” often takes place with IMs
    • Caveats
      • Can lead some students to the perception that professors should be available to them 24-7
      • Students can stray off topic and waste time of both
      • Barriers = bad; Boundaries = good
  • 10.  
  • 11. Part Two: Video Lectures
    • Inspiration – City College video lectures on CUNY TV
    • The “Push” – funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to CUNY to develop technology- and interned-based teaching
    • The chosen approach – Voice-Over-PowerPoint
      • Much smaller files than full video (10 – 30MB)
      • Easily deliverable and viewable through Moodle, (deleted), youtube, Google sites, etc.
      • Students need only an internet connection and a web browser with a Flash player installed (freeware)
  • 12. Voice-Over-PowerPoint (VOPP)
    • Files are very easy to create
    • You need a program that can create “screen shots” and recording audio at the same time. I used the Camtasia © Suite
    • Before lecture begins, click on “record.”
    • Lecture is given completely normally!
    • Microphone needed, but computer-embedded mic is just fine.
    • Remember students will not see YOU, only your screen
      • Thus, use the mouse cursor to point things out!
  • 13. VOPP Demo
  • 14. Experimental Setup and Data Collection
    • Course – Bio104 (second semester of General Biology)
    • Five Sections:
      • 01+02 – Meets as double section for lecture (control group)
      • 05 – Meets as single section for lecture (experimental group)
      • (03+04 taught by someone else, not included in this study)
    • For selected lectures:
      • Section 05 did not meet “live”
      • Rather, they were given, through BB, a VOPP recording of the lecture given to Section 01+02
      • Data Analysis – a) Exam scores; b) performance on specific questions testing concepts covered by the VOPP lectures
  • 15. First, are the two groups comparable??? Lents NH and Cifuentes OE, Journal of College Science Teaching, Nov 2009
  • 16. Data – First Exam Lents NH and Cifuentes OE, Journal of College Science Teaching, Nov 2009
  • 17. A fruitful discussion
    • Instructor asked, “what happened?”
    • Many students confessed to feeling unengaged, bored, and easily distracted
    • The class was almost ready to vote against any more video lectures
    • A few classmates that preferred the video lectures then spoke up and offered the following advice to classmates:
      • Try watching the video with the textbook open, following along with figures
      • PAUSE VIDEO in order to write things down, so that you can fully listen while instructor is talking
      • REWIND VIDEO and repeat if you are unsure about anything
      • PAUSE VIDEO if you are still confused and look things up in the text or other sources, then continue after you get it
      • Watch videos AGAIN before the test
    • In summary, those that LIKED the video lectures, frequently paused, rewound, and were actively engaged, not just passive watchers/listeners.
    • The class voted to keep trying video lectures.
  • 18. Data – Next three exams Lents NH and Cifuentes OE, Journal of College Science Teaching, Nov 2009
  • 19. Data – Optional Attendance (exam 4) Lents NH and Cifuentes OE, Journal of College Science Teaching, Nov 2009
  • 20. Data – Final Scores Lents NH and Cifuentes OE, Journal of College Science Teaching, Nov 2009
  • 21. Who prefers to come to class? Lents NH and Cifuentes OE, Journal of College Science Teaching, Nov 2009
  • 22. Data – Student Perceptions Lents NH and Cifuentes OE, Journal of College Science Teaching, Nov 2009
  • 23. Data – Student Perceptions
  • 24. Conclusions: Lessons Learned
    • VOPP lectures are simple to record, simple to view, and simple to post to BB
    • Most students can learn core concepts of General Biology as effectively through VOPP lectures as in-class lectures
    • When given the opportunity, most Bio students at JJC will watch a lecture more than once
    • Well more than half of students agree that VOPP lectures prepared them as well or better than traditional in-class lectures
    • Most students support the increased use of VOPP/video lectures
  • 25. Work in Progress
    • Explicitly teaching the Process and Nature of science has been shown to facilitate significant content learning gains
      • This means data-driven, inquiry-based learning
      • Teaching content using primary data and experimental results (both classic and recent)
    • Another case-controlled study, this time in the regular Bio103 lecture course
      • One group will take the course as normal
      • Another will have selected textbook chapters replaced with web-based content (that teaches the Nature and Process of Science WHILE teaching the same content).
      • Data collection:
        • pre- and post-surveys regarding understanding of Science
        • pre- and post-surveys regarding understanding of the relevant content
        • Performance on specific exam questions covered by web-based content
    • One big problem!
      • The two groups are taught by different instructors!
      • Solution:
        • Question-by-question comparisons
        • Exams 1 and 3 contain affected content, Exams 2 and 4 do not
        • We will NORMALIZE the performance on questions (and exams!) that are not part of the study
  • 26. Visionlearning: Building an open online learning environment for promoting the nature and practice of science Nathan Lents & Anthony Carpi John Jay College, The City University of New York The Power of Online Learning: Opportunities for Tomorrow October 30, 2009
  • 27. Shortcomings of Textbooks
    • “a mile wide and an inch thick”
    • Project 2061, AAAS
    • Expensive
  • 28. Visionlearning
  • 29. Library > 70 modules
  • 30. Modules
  • 31. MyClassroom
  • 32. Visionlearning
  • 33. Science Glossary iPhone ® app
  • 34. Quantitative Evaluation Carpi, 2001, J. Coll. Sci. Teach. Mean Assessment Quiz Scores in 8 sections of NSC107  (n = 454) Group 1:  Sections Using Visionlearning Group 2: Sections Using Prior Web & Text Group 3: Section Using Textbook Only Quiz Score by Section ± 95% CI 77 ± 3 76 ± 4 78 ± 3 62 ± 5 61 ± 3 66 ± 5 63 ± 4 55 ± 6 Mean 77 ± 2 63 ± 2 55 ± 6
  • 35. Simple but Powerful Tools for Enhancing College Science Education Nathan H. Lents, Ph.D. Anthony Carpi, Ph.D. Department of Sciences John Jay College of Criminal Justice The City University of New York www.visionlearning.org [email_address]