The Use of Instructional Technology to Impact Student Retention and Attitudes in a College Level Geology Course

By Michelle McMahon.

Published by Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

In 2008, in concurrence with a Lone Star College system-wide program to impact student retention, the department of Chemistry, Physic, Engineering and Geology (CPEG) at Lone Star College-Montgomery* (LSCM), designed and implemented a two-year pilot project in the Physical Geology 1 class to test if a comprehensive Blackboard-based Course Resource (PGBCR) would impact student retention and attitudes regarding the geosciences. Student tracking and surveying data was collected to monitor student attitudes and measure class retention rates. Class retentions rates were determined by the number of students that start the course versus the number of students who complete the course. Tracking and survey results show dramatic increases in both student retention and student enthusiasm for the course content and continuing in geosciences.
PGBCR is specifically designed to accommodate the broad spectrum of student interest, capability, and learning styles typical of a community college classroom, and integrates the plethora of public domain geoscience resources including government agencies (NOAA, NASA, USGS, EPA, DOD, and DOE, NPS,) as well as local, national, and international research organizations and universities.
Prior to the implementation of the PGBCR pilot study, the median student retention rate in 12 sections of the Physical Geology 1 course, taught over a 4 year period was 75%, ranging between 47 and 87%. During the PGBCR pilot study, student retention increased to a median of 85%, with a range of 78 - 86%, a dramatic improvement compared to previous retention rates and well above the LSC system-wide average. Student survey data indicate a twofold increase in the number of students planning to continue in geology.
The future plans for this project include designing and building an Angel Learning System Physical Geology Course Template (APGT) that will be available to all instructors of Physical Geology throughout the Lone Star College System (LSCS).

*Lone Star College-Montgomery is one of 5 campuses of the Lone Star College System (LSCS) which serves over 62,000 students in the Houston area, and is the second largest community college system in Texas.

Keywords: Geosciences, College Level, Blackboard, Student Retention, Student Attitudes, Science Education

Ubiquitous Learning: An International Journal, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp.77-84. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.654MB).

Dr. Michelle McMahon

Instructor Geology- Oceanography, Department of Chemistry, Physic, Engineering and Geology, Lone Star College-montgomery, Conroe, Texas, USA

Dr. McMahon’s research background is in geologic remote sensing and 4-D computer modeling. She has experiences working in industry and academics, for private and government research firms, both in the United States and internationally. Her current research emphasis is the utilization of instructional technology to promote the use of GIS, remote sensing, and modeling technologies in geoscience education.