Teaching Geology Courses Online: Is Anyone Learning?
Solomon A. ISIORHO
Department of Geosciences
Indiana University  Purdue University Fort Wayne
(IPFW)
Fort Wayne, IN 46805, USA.
ABSTRACT
As more colleges and
universities offer online courses and programs, some disciplines such as
Geology appear to be lagging behind. Teaching geology courses online is still
in its infancy partly because the facilitating technology is still evolving,
the nature of the courses (some require laboratory or field work), and the lack
of data of the effectiveness of online delivery in the geosciences. Using
prequiz and postquiz, we attempted to find out if students learn from geology
courses offered online. Also, using the test scores from four exams
administered to two student groups (the Face To Face (FTF)) and Internet), we
were able to compare students’ performances. The result shows no significance
difference between the two student groups. However, there was statistical
significant difference between the prequiz and postquiz for the internet
students (Tvalue = 2.41; Pvalue = 0.02; DF = 31). The results suggest that
learning is taking place in geology courses offered online.
Keywords: Teaching, Online, Internet, Geology, Face to face (FTF).
INTRODUCTION
Internetbased course
offerings have increased as entire college programs are now offered through the
internet with several virtual colleges and universities now in existence. This
trend will continue as larger and high resolution frame videos streaming become
available to most homes. Some fields are
more amendable to being offered online than others. Science courses, especially
in the earth sciences that require laboratory and field experiences, are
lacking behind in internetbased course offerings. Literature search shows some
science courses that require or incorporate laboratory components are now being
partly offered online with some science courses offered entirely online. Is
anyone learning geology in the online geology offered courses? One way of
assessing if students learn through internetbased courses is by surveys or the
use of students’ exams. Students’
performances can be used to evaluate students=
mastering of subject materials.
METHOD
To answer the question Ais anyone learning taking internetbased geology
courses?”, two student groups taking the same general
education physical geology course in the spring of 2003 are chosen for this
study. One group meets in the regular class room settings and the other group
is taught entirely online. This physical geology course meets the general
education (GenEd) requirement in the physical
sciences and as a result, students with varied backgrounds (majors) take the
course. For background information as to their prior knowledge of geology, a
prequiz is administered in the first week of the course. The prequiz consists
of ten questions taken from practice tests of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) as
discussed in Isiorho [1].
Available to both groups are
the syllabi and Power Point slides prepared by two students who had taken the
course previously. Also available are class notes (lecture outlines), CDROMs,
and links to the textbook web sites. Online bulletin boards are made available
to both groups. However, in the internetbased section, students are required
to have a minimum of one posting per week for credit while the traditional
section students have the option to use the bulletin board for questions and
answers. Both groups are required to write a onepage report, but the
internetbased group is required to write three additional one page reports.
Both groups are given four exams spread throughout the semester. At the end of
the semester, a post quiz was administered to both groups using the same set of
questions from the prequiz. As an ongoing project, we present the results from
the spring of 2003 students= groups below.
RESULTS
AND DISCUSSIONS
A total of 122 students
registered for the FTF physical geology course while 25 students signed up for
the internet section. The results from the prequiz and post quiz and the four
tests are presented in tables 1 and 2. Table I is the basic statistic for the
online class and table II is for the FTF class.
Table 1. Statistics for the Online Class

Test 1 
Test 2 
Test3 
Test 4 
PreQuiz 
Postquiz 

N 







Valid 
23 
23 
23 
23 
21 
12 









Missing 
1 
1 
1 
1 
3 
12 

Mean 








72.70 
66.35 
73.8261 
78.2870 
1.8095 
3.1667 

Median 








70.00 
68.00 
76.0000 
82.0000 
1.0000 
3.0000 

Std. Deviation 








11.903 
14.556 
13.01626 
17.73346 
1.24976 
1.99241 

Range 








46 
52 
46.00 
87.40 
4.00 
6.00 

Table 2.
Statistics for the FTF Class

PreQuiz 
PostQuiz 
Test1 
Test2 
Test3 
Test4 









Valid 
78 
68 
117 
111 
106 
109 









Missing 
54 
64 
15 
21 
26 
23 

Mean 








2.4487 
2.7941 
61.8803 
71.3514 
78.9434 
80.0183 

Median 








3.0000 
3.0000 
64.0000 
72.0000 
82.0000 
82.0000 

Std. Deviation 








1.43832 
1.29935 
13.64144 
12.60638 
12.92972 
12.11823 

Variance 








2.06876 
1.68832 
186.08901 
158.92088 
167.17772 
146.85151 

Range 








8.00 
7.00 
60.00 
56.00 
62.00 
58.00 

The data for Test 1 is shown
as a histogram in figure 1 for the internet class and figure 2 for the FTF
class. Also shown in histogram format are the test score results for Test 4 in
figures 3 and 4 for both the internet and FTF classes respectively.
Figure 1. Test #1 score for FTF Class Figure
2. Test #1 score for Internet Class
Figure 3. Test #4 for FTF Class Figure
4. Test #4 score for Internet Class
We analyzed the students’
exams 1 and 4 scores results using a 2Sample t statistics. To test the
hypothesis that there is no difference between the means of the two student
groups, we used a 2sample T test using MINITAB statistical software.
Figure 5 shows a box plot of
the prequiz for the internet with the FTF students’ scores. It shows
similarity of the knowledge base for both groups prior to course offering. This
means that the two student groups exhibit the same level of knowledge with
regards to their geologic understanding. Figure 6 shows a box plot for the
postquiz for the two groups. There is a difference in their scores between the
two groups. However, there is no statistical significant difference between the
two groups.
Twosample T for PreQuiz versus (Internet) PreQuiz_1 (FTF)
N
Mean StDev SE Mean
PreQuiz (Internet) 21
1.81 1.25 0.27
PreQuiz_ (FTF) 78
2.45 1.44 0.16
Difference = mu PreQuiz  mu
PreQuiz_1; Estimate for
difference: 0.639; 95% CI for difference: (1.323, 0.045)
TTest of difference = 0 (vs not =): TValue =
1.86 PValue =
0.067 DF = 97;
Both use Pooled StDev = 1.40; NOTE * N missing = 57
Figure 5. Box
plots of PreQuiz Internet and PreQuiz_1 (FTF)
Twosample
T for PostQuiz (Internet) versus MayQuiz (FTF)
N Mean
StDev
SE Mean
PostQuiz
(Internet) 12 3.17 1.99
0.58
MayQuiz (FTYF)
69 2.80
1.29 0.16
Difference = mu PostQuiz  mu MayQuiz;
Estimate for difference:
0.370; 95% CI for difference:
(0.508, 1.247)
TTest of difference = 0 (vs
not =): TValue = 0.84 PValue = 0.404 DF = 79
Both use Pooled StDev = 1.41
·
NOTE * N missing =
74
Figure 6. Box plot of PostQuiz (Internet) and MayQuiz (FTF)
When the prequiz and
postquiz results of the FTF students were compared, there was no significant
difference in their scores, although there was slight increase in their
postquiz scores as shown in table 3. Comparing the prequiz and postquiz
performance of the internet class, there is an increase in students’ scores.
The difference in the scores are statistically significant (Tvalue=2.41;
pvalue=0.022; DF=31.) (Figure 7). This could mean that the internet class
provides a more effective learning environment because the students are more
involved participating in learning process [2].
Table 3. Post quiz for
FTF and Internet classes Statistics
Twosample T for PreQuiz_1 versus MayQuiz
N Mean
StDev
SE Mean
PreQuiz_ (FTF) 78
2.45 1.44 0.16
MayQuiz (Internet) 69 2.80
1.29 0.16
Difference = mu PreQuiz_1  mu MayQuiz;
Estimate for difference: 0.348;
95% CI for difference: (0.796, 0.099)
TTest of difference = 0 (vs not =): TValue
= 1.54 PValue = 0.126 DF = 145
Both use Pooled StDev = 1.37;
* NOTE * N missing = 119
Twosample T for Internet
Class PreQuiz versus PostQuiz
N Mean
StDev
SE Mean
PreQuiz (Internet) 12 1.81
1.25 0.27
PostQuiz (Internet)
12 3.17
1.99 0.58
Difference = mu PreQuiz  mu
PostQuiz; Estimate for
difference: 1.357; 95% CI for difference: (2.504, 0.210)
TTest of difference = 0 (vs not =): TValue =
2.41 PValue =
0.022 DF = 31
Both use Pooled StDev = 1.55; NOTE * N missing = 12
Figure 7. Box plot of Pre and post quiz and Internet Class
Examining the test scores
shows that the internet students did better than the FTF in the first exam
(Tvalue =3.54; pvalue=0.001, DF=138 (figure 8). However, on the fourth test,
both groups show no significant difference (figure 9).
Twosample T for IntTest1 versus Test1
N Mean
StDev
SE Mean
IntTest1 23
72.7 11.9 2.5
FTF Test1 117 61.9 13.6
1.3
Difference = mu IntTest1  mu
Test1; Estimate for difference: 10.82;
95% CI for difference: (4.78, 16.85)
TTest of difference = 0 (vs not =): TValue =
3.54 PValue =
0.001 DF = 138
Both use Pooled StDev = 13.4; NOTE * N missing = 15
Figure 8. Box plots of Test #1 Scores for internet and FTF students.
Twosample T for IntTest4 versus Test4
N Mean
StDev
SE Mean
IntTest4 23
78.3 17.7 3.7
FTF Test4 110 80.1
12.1 1.2
Difference = mu IntTest4  mu
Test4; Estimate for difference: 1.79;
95% CI for difference: (7.77, 4.20)
TTest of difference = 0 (vs not =): TValue =
0.59 PValue =
0.556 DF = 131
Both use Pooled StDev = 13.2; * NOTE * N missing = 23
Figure 9. Box plots of Test 4 scores of Internet and FTF
The median for both groups
are the same. When all four exams are pooled together, we find no significant
difference between the two groups (FTF, N=443; mean = 72.72; SD + 14.79 and the
Internet, N=92; mean = 72.79; SD =14.86). This result that shows no significant
difference in students’ performance between internet and FTF students is in
agreement with the findings reported by Isiorho [1].
This study shows that
internet students learn as much as FTF students. However, the result of the
prequiz and postquiz shows that students are learning from geology courses
taught online. Not considered, is the role of class standing (for example,
junior or senior ranking) on students performance. The FTF has traditionally
more freshmen and sophomore (approximately 70%) students than the internet
class (approximately 20%). That would be addressed this summer as two sections
of the same course are monitored.
CONCLUSIONS
The collected data show
internet students learn as much as FTF geology students. There is statistical
significance learning on the part of the internet students shown by their
prequiz and postquiz score results.
REFERENCES
[1] S. A. Isiorho, “A Case for Teaching entry Level Geology Courses
Online Comparing Online with Traditional Face to Face (FTF) Students’
Performances”, 2003, Under review in the Journal of Geosciences Education.
[2] H. Arsham, “Impact of the Internet on Learning and
teaching”, Journal of the United States Distance Learning Association, Vol. 16,
No. 3, March 2002 (http://www.usdla.org/html/journal/MAR02_Issue/article01.html).
In the
proceedings of the Int. Conference on Education and Information Systems:
Technologies and Applications (EISTA '03) Orlando, Florida, July 31 to August
12, 2003. (Edited by F. Malpica, A.Tremante, and