Erik Christensen’s Online Class Selected as Top Six in State
SFCC Natural Science Professor Erik Christensen’s online astronomy class was recently selected by the Florida Distance Learning Consortium as one of the top six online course offerings in Florida.
Christensen designed his online class to be easy to navigate, yet engaging and challenging for his students. He provides his students with different ways to learn by embedding YouTube video discussions of weekly course requirements and designing collaborative projects for his online students. He uses a low-cost textbook, videos from the History Channel program The Universe, pictures and diagrams, PowerPoint presentations, and Java applet simulations from the University of Nebraska’s Astronomy Applet Project to provide his students with a variety of learning methods.
Another popular and unique tool Christensen uses in his online course is a star party. “My students and I meet outside of the classroom, and we use telescopes to look at the stars and moon, and they are given assignments to complete,” Christensen said. “The star parties have also proven to be the best tool for recruiting new students into the class. My current students bring their friends with them, and their friends often sign up for the class the next academic term.”
The online class is popular with SFCC students. It has a 94 percent completion rate and fills to capacity on the first day of registration. “My goal is to help them develop a lifelong interest in astronomy. While the course is challenging, it is also fun, and they walk away with a better appreciation for science.”
“Erik Christensen is a caring, knowledgeable, and innovative teacher,” said Melanie Jackson, director, e-Learning. “Because he cares about student learning, he is never content to do the ‘same ole thing’ with his students and is constantly seeking ways to improve his teaching and resources. The various methods he incorporates into his online astronomy course are just another example of his commitment to student learning. I nominated him for the award because he is a technology first adopter at SFCC. Not only has he become one of our leading technology innovators, he shares his knowledge with the faculty to assist us in to improving our own teaching methods.”
The Florida Distance Learning Consortium facilitates collaboration among public postsecondary educational institutions in their use of distance learning, to increase student access to associate and baccalaureate courses and degree programs, to support institutions in their use of technology, to help build partnerships among institutions, businesses, and communities. Membership is open to all public or private school districts, colleges, universities, and private institutions recognized by Florida’s State Board of Education and accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.