2011 Annual Science Report

Arizona State University Reporting  |  SEP 2010 – AUG 2011

EPO Activity: EPO Formal Education, Task 1: Habitable Worlds Online Undergraduate Course (GLG 106)

Project Progress

Habitable Worlds (GLG 106)
PI Ariel Anbar began development of a new, astrobiology-themed science course for non-science majors to be offered 100% online. Habitable Worlds teaches students that science is an exploration-driven process through which we use quantitative reasoning to decrease our ignorance about the unknown, rather than a body of facts and formulae to memorize and apply. Organized around the Drake Equation, it uses the search for intelligent life beyond Earth as a narrative theme to illustrate that the same process applies across a range of disciplines, from physics to sustainability science.

In Fall, 2010, the class was offered to 30 students in a pilot mode, face-to-face, to refine the curriculum and to experiment with some digital technologies, including the prototype of the Flinders virtual field trip (VFT; see Informal Education Activities). Dr. Lev Horodyskyj (a PSU team alum) was employed part-time to assist with this offering.

In Spring, 2011, Anbar and Horodyskyj worked with ASU Online and Smart Sparrow LLC to develop interactive digital simulations for use in the 100% online offering of the course. The intent is to use these simulations and VFTs (e.g., Figure 4), rather than recorded lectures, as the centerpiece for online education. This approach inverts the lecture-first approach that is prevalent in introductory science education. 160 students were enrolled for the Fall, 2011 offering which commenced after the reporting period.