Dr William Landing, of the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science at Florida State University (FSU), hoped that VLEs might offer an innovative way to teach core science concepts outside of traditional classes and lectures.
His colleague Stephanie Dillon, of FSU’s Department of Chemistry, told him about the successful VLEs we had designed for her introductory course in chemistry for Liberal Studies.
Dr Landing decided to try the same approach on his introductory course in environmental science, aiming to enhance student experience by creating experiences that would not be possible without significantly increasing the resource burden on both the students and department.
Working with Dr Landing and his Teaching Assistants, we devised and built a laboratory series consisting of eight modules taught within four VLEs.
Students travel back in time to Easter Island with the mission of discovering what caused the collapse of the Rapa Nui culture. They monitor invasive species by SCUBA diving on the Great Barrier Reef and analyze the Earth’s climate change by drilling ice cores in the Antarctic.
The last environment is closer to home: a suburban housing development in which students learn about the design, construction and maintenance of sustainable buildings.
The course breaks down into the following modules:
1. Easter Island: carrying capacity and sustainability
2. Invasive species: lionfish
3. Ice core: global warming and sea level rise
4. Ocean acidification and global warming: impacts on coral reefs
5. Fertilizers and farming
6. Nutrient runoff: watershed impacts
7. Frogs and atrazine: ecotoxicology
8. Green building: energy efficiency
I think there’s a real future for it… Students are able to log on and complete the labs at a time that is convenient for them. The Teaching Assistants and I are in the virtual world every day where we can chat live with students to answer any questions they may have in real time.Dr William Landing
Dr Landing and his students are delighted with the project. Using VLEs, he presents the course material in a far more engaging way, without forfeiting the educational standards required of a core science class.
The course is currently offered year-round and has attracted approximately 750 new students annually.