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Teaching Science Online: Practical Guidance for Effective Instruction and Lab Work

reviewed by Omah Williams-Duncan - February 22, 2018

coverTitle: Teaching Science Online: Practical Guidance for Effective Instruction and Lab Work
Author(s): Dietmar Kennepohl (Ed.)
Publisher: Stylus Publishing, Sterling, VA
ISBN: 1620361884, Pages: 276, Year: 2016
Search for book at Amazon.com

Are you skeptical about the quality of online science courses? Would you argue that they require less interactive instructional strategies than their face-to-face counterparts? Do you wonder if the students who complete such courses are competent in their science knowledge and skills? Has your university or college science department been charged with growing their student population without hiring more instructors? If your response is yes to any or all of these questions, insights and solutions may be found in Teaching Science Online: Practical Guidance for Effective Instruction and Lab Work, edited by Dietmar K. Kennepohl.

Kennepohl is a leading researcher of teaching online science courses. When developing online chemistry courses, he integrates his knowledge of student behavior in online environments with optimal online teaching strategies (Kennepohl, 2007). Given his applied expertise in the field, Kennepohl has gathered, curated, and edited chapters in Teaching Science Online to help others understand the possibilities of online science instruction.

Teaching Science Online consists of three parts, all authored by selected international and American researchers and facilitators of online science courses. Authors of Part One address common concerns and skepticism about the development of quality online science courses, listing the basic steps for setting up traditional science courses with online learning management platforms. Authors of Part Two offer insights into the implementation of effective instructional strategies using exemplar online courses as case studies to dispel the myth that online courses lack rigor and that certain skills cannot be taught in online settings (Hoskins & Van Hooff, 2005). Contributors to Part Three present lists of viable resources and discuss the integration or adaptation of these resources into specialized online science courses. Readers charged with developing an online science course or who are skeptical about teaching science courses online will be encouraged by the content and presentation of Kennepohl’s text.

Part One, entitled “The Basics of Getting Science Courses Online,” encompasses Chapters One through Four. Part One authors present considerations for developing undergraduate online science courses that would traditionally have a lab component and a high student roster. In these chapters, the authors also introduce Part One’s unifying theme: the importance of initial planning. When planning, faculty should weigh student knowledge, upper-level course standards, skill requirements from professional organizations, and requests from potential employers. Once authors describe how they arrive at determining course content and experiences, each chapter has considerations for course-specific practices that align with desirable student outcomes. A summary of Part One chapters follows.   

Chapter One authors describe steps for designing an introductory biology course. They tackle how to get online, handle labs, and the unique complexities of using diagrams and models in online biology classes. Chapter Two authors add to the basics by showcasing the particular obstacles for launching a chemistry course online. The authors’ considerations for integrating and presenting virtual laboratory components and complex illustrations are similar to those for online biology courses. Chapter Two authors also emphasize the administration of online assessments, course expectations, student interactions, and managing support for large sections of students. Specifically, the authors provide details on coordinating synchronous and asynchronous discussions. These authors also discuss the administration and management of virtual and kit-based labs as a substitute for face-to-face labs. Chapter Three authors speak to the special complexities presented by Earth science courses. The authors offer solutions for field experiences, presenting options such as integrating virtual field trips via Google Earth. The authors explore mobile learning opportunities and discuss the possibility of adapting students’ assignments to their specific regions. Chapter Four authors address the distinctive challenges presented by online physics courses, recommending the integration of virtual simulations for interactive screen experiments and the usage of robotic instruments via remote connection in lieu of hands-on work.

In Part Two, which encompasses Chapters Five through Fourteen, authors present cases of specialized online science courses, their distinctive technologies, and considerations for online science professional development. Chapter Five begins with a discussion about traditional science education and laboratory objectives, which the author then contrasts with the unique standards of online science courses. Her comparison logically introduces the remaining chapters of Part Two, in which authors present unique applications and adaptations of standards for online science courses. Chapter Six authors further describe the requirements for online biology courses while Chapter Seven authors highlight the unique objectives for assessment in online physics courses. Chapter Eleven authors present challenges and solutions for cooperation within and facilitation of environmental and Earth science experiences in online courses. Chapter Thirteen authors present a similar viewpoint when addressing the management of collaborative experiences needed for online pharmacy courses. Authors in Chapters Eight through Twelve describe the application of new simulations, equipment, and mobile technologies in online science courses. Chapter Fourteen’s authors analyze two Australian science professional development programs for K-12 educators, concluding that the online science programs lacked the coherence, content, and capacity to promote contextualized learning and collaboration among participants.

Part Three, “Summary and Future Trends,” follows with a concluding chapter from Kennepohl. Here, he reiterates the importance of implementing current technological advancements in online science courses and programs. Given the increasing demand for online instruction, he advises a review of new technologies on the horizon. Kennepohl ends the text by discussing current and potential future integration of big data from learning analytics, open educational resources, simulations, massive open online courses (MOOCS), and advancements in neurological mapping. He considers these technologies to be frontier advancements that will continue to impact and improve online science instruction.

Kennepohl and the other authors of this text expertly dispel the myth that science, a highly skills-based practice, cannot be taught online. Chapter authors offer teaching strategies to enrich online science experiences and provide numerous examples of collaborative endeavors, innovative implementation of current technologies, and case studies featuring successful online science courses with experiential requirements. In many cases, chapter authors created the programs and courses they write about. Novice and veteran faculty, higher education administrators, and education specialists in online learning would all benefit from reading this book.


Hoskins, S. L., & Van Hooff, J. C. (2005). Motivation and ability: Which students use

online learning and what influence does it have on their achievement? British Journal of Educational Technology, 36(2), 177–192.

Kennepohl, D. (2007). Using computer simulations to supplement teaching laboratories in chemistry for distance delivery. International Journal of E-Learning & Distance Education, 16(2), 58–65.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: February 22, 2018
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22282, Date Accessed: 1/20/2022 12:54:25 AM

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About the Author
  • Omah Williams-Duncan
    University of Houston, Clear Lake
    E-mail Author
    OMAH M. WILLIAMS-DUNCAN is an assistant professor in teacher education with a STEM emphasis at University of Houston, Clear Lake. Her areas of specialization are multicultural and science education. Her research interests include cross-cultural mentoring, pre-service and in-service teacher perceptions of their teacher education program, and STEM engagement. Her most recent publication is about cross-cultural mentoring. She is currently working on projects about cross-cultural perceptions of professional teacher dispositions and STEM engagement by early career engineers.
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