Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

The Big Crunch: A Hybrid Solution to Earth and Space Science Instruction for Elementary Education Majors

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

The Big Crunch: A Hybrid Solution to Earth and Space Science Instruction for Elementary Education Majors

Article excerpt


We describe the rationale and process for the development of a new hybrid Earth and Space Science course for elementary education majors. A five-step course design model, applicable to both online and traditional courses, is presented. Assessment of the course outcomes after two semesters indicates that the intensive time invested in the development of the course results in a manageable workload during the semester for faculty with an already full teaching load. We also found that average scores in proctored online exams for this cohort of students are identical to the average scores of students from the same major enrolled in a face-to-face (F2F) course. Exam scores significantly improved in the second semester after adjustments to the workload and the introduction of explicit test-taking tips at the beginning of the semester. We found that our students, at all stages of their studies, were not used to the self-guided instruction required for success in online courses, and were often not as comfortable using Web-based technology for instruction as we expected.

© 2023 National Association of Geoscience Teachers. [DOI: 10.5408/12-335.1]

Key Words: Earth and Space Science, preservice teachers, elementary education, hybrid course, distance education


In this paper we describe the process that has led to the creation of a new hybrid (online plus face-to-face [F2F] instruction) Earth and Space Science (E&SS) course for elementary education (ElEd) majors at Iowa State University (ISU), and describe some of the lessons learned from the first two semesters of teaching the course. ISU is a rural, research-intensive Midwestern university with a student population close to 30,000 that has been growing steadily since 2007. The average teaching load for faculty in science departments ranges between seven and nine credits per year, with class sizes that have been growing because higher enrollments have not been matched by higher number of faculty. Online courses are offered but this is not the primary mode of course delivery. Given future projections for enrollments in higher education institutions across the country (NCES, 2011), the model described here will possibly become a more common approach to manage faculty teaching loads with reduced resources.

After briefly reviewing the rationale behind the creation of the course, we discuss the development process used for both the online and F2F parts of the course. We then describe results from the first semester of teaching, specifically looking at the effect on the teaching load for the faculty involved and how students in this course compared in learning science content with those in a more traditional course. Finally, we discuss some lessons learned from the first semester highlighting those challenges particular to a hybrid course and to our target cohort of mostly on-campus freshman ElEd majors, and share the results of these changes at the end of the second semester.


In 2009, the State of Iowa introduced new program requirements for beginning elementary teachers, effective September 2015. Given the standard four year preparation, these changes mean that, beginning college in Fall 2011 (Fll), ElEd majors had to follow a course of study aligned with these new requirements (G??? 2011; Iowa DOE 2012; see supplemental file available at 12-335sl). The new requirements state that nine semester hours (e.g., 3 three-credit single semester courses) in science content have to be equally distributed among life sciences, physical sciences (chemistry and physics), and E&SS. In addition, students are required to take three semester hours of science methods that include "current best-practice, research based methods of inquiry-based teaching and learning of science" and "integration of technology in teaching and student learning in science" (see supplemental file). …

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