Teaching Lab Science Courses Online: Resources for Best Practices, Tools, and Technology. Jeschofing, Linda and Jeschofing, Peter, Jossey-Bass (2011).
Reviewed by Bruce Palmquist, Physics and Science Education
This is another in the series of Jossey-Bass Guides to Online Teaching and Learning. The authors are former college professors who founded Hands-On-Labs, Inc., a company that produces home lab kits for students taking online science courses. While the authors promote prepackaged lab kits as the primary curricular component of a successful online science course, they also provide an effective overview of other components of online course planning such as writing a syllabus, facilitating online discussions, and developing assessments. They address many possible obstacles to teaching lab science courses online and explore ways to overcome these obstacles.
Everyone in the online course planning process can benefit from sections in this book. Faculty members and administrators who are doubtful that science can and should be taught online should read chapters one and two. These chapters discuss common questions people have about teaching lab science online and even argue that student learning in online science courses, at least at the introductory level, could be better than face to face courses. Faculty members and chairs who are interested in converting their face to face lab science courses to online courses but are not sure what tools to use should read chapters three, four, and seven, which cover teaching software and lab facilitation options. In fact chapter four, Online Science Lab Options, should be required reading for all science instructors due to its extensive overview of a variety of alternative lab pedagogies. Current online instructors in any discipline would learn from chapters five and six and their general description of effective online teaching strategies. New online instructors can get practical tips from the online lab science teaching experts in chapter nine. Administrators and department chairs who would like a comprehensive model for implementing an online lab science program should read the appendix, a case study for placing microbiology completely online at Ocean County College.
Chapter 1: Why Teach Science Online
- Overview of the reasons for teaching science, in general and online.
Chapter 2: Teaching Science: Online Verses Face to Face
- Reviews and addresses the perceived and actual obstacles to teaching lab science online.
Chapter 3: Specific Tools and Software for Teaching Online Science
- Explores the technological tools such as Blackboard and other Web 2.0 tools that facilitate and enrich online teaching and learning.
Chapter 4: Online Science Lab Options: Pros, Cons, and Effectiveness
- Provides an extensive overview of the options for online laboratory experiences. The authors promote their own company here but also present many other options.
Chapter 5: The Art of Teaching an Online Science Course
- Examines the components of an online course such as syllabi, presentation of concepts, and discussion boards.
Chapter 6: Promoting Academic Integrity in Online Science Courses
- Describes tools and methods to minimize cheating.
Chapter 7: The Art of Incorporating Online Lab Assignments
- Describes how different types of lab options are incorporated into an online science course.
Chapter 8: The Evidence Supporting Off-Campus Science Labs
- Reviews quantitative and anecdotal evidence supporting the effectiveness of online lab science courses. The authors could have done a more convincing job in this chapter.
Chapter 9: Online Teaching Advice from the Pros
- Long-practicing online science educations give advice ranging from basic (do the labs before assigning them to students) to complex (how to make sure students are doing their own work).
Chapter 10: The Tipping Point for Online Science is Now!
- Encourages faculty and administrators to make the leap to online science courses before it is too late! Perhaps the authors are a bit alarmist here.
Appendix: A Case Study from Start to Finish: The Why and How of Placing Microbiology Completely Online at Ocean County College
- Overview of the need, thought process, and implementation procedures employed to initiate an online lab science course.