Computers & Geosciences, Volume 25, Number 1, 1999

John C. Butler
Department of Geosciences
University of Houston
Houston, TX 77204

From the Associate Editor for ANON

During the life of ANON (first published in 1995, number 6) there have been guest contributions from a number of sectors -- education, professional societies, geological surveys and publishing companies. A common thread throughout all of the guest editorials was the use of the Internet to disseminate information judged to be of value to their individual constituencies.

In early August 1998, I had an opportunity to participate as part of a Working Group for the Assessment and Dissemination of Web-based Learning (WBL) Materials in the Earth Sciences. Nearly two dozen geoscientists and learning specialists were drawn from the petroleum industry and universities and brought to the campus of the Colorado School of Mines in Golden Colorado for about three and a half days of presentations and discussions. All shared a keen interest in exploring the potential of the Internet to assist in the creation of learning environments.

The conference was sponsored by support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Undergraduate Education, and the American Geological Institute (AGI). Tom Boyd (Colorado School of Mines), Chris Keane (AGI) and John Butler (University of Houston) served as the organizing committee. The primary goal of the workshop was to review the state of web-based learning (WBL) in the geosciences and its effect on K-12, undergraduate, graduate, corporate, and continuing education in North America. A secondary goal was to share experiences within a talented and highly motivated group of individuals.

I believe that the ANON readers will find the following links to resources developed by workshop participants informative.

Session One -- Case Studies of WBL

Stephanie Pfirman (Barnard College) - Earth System Science, a team-taught course at Barnard College and Columbia University emphasizes concepts and processes and relies heavily on web-based learning modules with interactive access to oceanographic and geophysical databases.

Eryn Klosko (Northwestern University) - - Introductory Geophysics

combines web-based activities with hands-on lab exercises.

Bruce Herbert (Texas A&M) - - discussed the use of virtual field trips in earth science as a lead into problem-solving activities.

Pam Gore (Georgia Perimeter College) described her widely known Georgia Geoscience Online program -

that contains many links to useful geoscience resources.

Session Two -- Issues and Strategies.

Tom Boyd (Colorado School of Mines) - - Introduction to Geophysical Exploration illustrates strategies for interdisciplinary teaching with an

inquiry-based, "game like" approach in which students learn general concepts as an outgrowth of a series of problem-solving activities.

Phil Brown (University of Wisconsin) uses 3-D visualization along with other web tools to enhance instruction in mineralogy, mineral resources, and gemology.

Jimm Meyers (University of Wyoming) - - is interested in the power of database-driven websites.

Chris Keane (AGI) - - gave examples of large client-side data interaction environments and focused on some of the hardware and networking issues encountered both in academia and industry.

Beth Hawkes (University of British Columbia) - - provided further insight into issues of technology-based distributive learning and distance education.

Session Three --Assessment and Support

Holly Taylor (Tufts University) and Carl Renshaw (Dartmouth College) presented a two-part discussion on the need for combining assessment methods with web page development. Their data suggest that Web-based interactivity may improve both long-term and short-term retention and enhance the learner's ability to recognize similar patterns in different domains.

Michelle Lamberson (University of British Columbia) - - described her role in developing

interactive web pages for geoscience instruction by serving as the

link between faculty who provide content and student workers who

provide the technical expertise.

Warren Huff (University of Cincinnati- described how academic institutions are beginning to respond to the need for academic instruction support systems.

John Butler (University of Houston) - - closed the session by reviewing efforts to assemble geoscience links in a central locality provide repositories geoscience information.

Wayne Greaves (Amoco), Ken Heideman (Arco), Jan Van Sant (AGI Foundation), and Charles Kluth (Chevron and representing the American Association of Petroleum Geologists) added a corporate perspective to the proceedings. Following a presentation by Greaves and Heideman, there was a general consensus that although our target audiences differed, there was a great deal of common ground. Both industry and academics believed that it was important to focus on development of resources using a modular concept. Both agreed that the ability for learners to visually interact with real data was of fundamental importance in fostering learning.

A number of breakout sessions proved effective ways to focus on issues raised by the participants. However, most all of the participants wanted their say on all issues so time was devoted to the larger or group discussion activities.


Anticipated outcomes of the workshop include 1) encouraging and

promoting partnerships for WBL between academia and industry, 2) addressing more systematically the issue of professional recognition for WBL efforts, 3) establishing a peer-review rating system for WBL sites, 4) establish a

central repository for WBL geoscience modules, demo WBL software,

peer-reviewed research papers on WBL, web tools, assessment tools, and

5) links to examples. Efforts are now underway to establish funding sources

and develop a coordinated approach to the education committees of all major

geoscience societies and organizations in North America. WBL workshops and presentations at professional meetings are being planned for the coming