At the risk of opening Pandora’s box I want to raise the topic of online introductory biology courses for majors.
Like many of you we are receiving inquiries from our administration about developing online courses to serve as alternatives to our regular course offerings.  Specifically we have been asked by our administration to develop an online version of Introductory Biology for majors. 
In thinking about this request a thought occurred to me.  What if we could work together to create a single online course that could be implemented at all 31 institutions in the University System of Georgia (USG)?  I believe the advantages of developing a single USG on-line course are manifold.  First, we could distribute the workload rather than each independently developing an entire course on our own.  Second, we could learn from each other about approaches that we have found to be successful (or unsuccessful) in the online environment.  Third, we could formulate and agree upon a set of learning outcomes that goes well beyond the standard list of topics which currently guides our approach to teaching introductory biology. Finally, we would create a final product that would be uniform across the USG and in doing so, make a course that would be automatically accepted at any of the member institutions. 
 
My question to the PULSE community is whether any other state systems have taken a similar approach to standardizing an online introductory biology course and if so, what advice you might offer to those of us in Georgia who are now considering it.
 
-Mark Farmer
Chair - Biological Sciences
University of Georgia 

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Have you seen this recent article, "Online learning: How to make a MOOC"  from NatureJobs)? http://www.nature.com/naturejobs/science/articles/10.1038/nj7458-369a

It refers to efforts Eric Lander at MIT has made for an introductory biology course offered via EdX.

Dear Mark and all -

However this develops, we suggest that all undergraduates of every major (everywhere) should successfully complete a one week unit (five or six days or so) that contemplates the following question:  What should every student, policymaker, educator, and citizen know about our planet?   

And then envision freely-downloadable open-courseware resources that target precisely such core concepts,
principles, data sets, and understandings.  As two already-existing examples of such resources that might be employed, the following may be of interest: 

COLLECTION ONE  - Biospherics Literacy and Sustainability 101 - Five PowerPoints /Five Days?
which is accessible at http://www.scribd.com/collections/3705681/Biospherics-Literacy-101-...

The above envision biospheric literacy for all students and first-year undergraduates using freely-downloadable
PowerPoints and PDFs
which are easily assimilated over a span of one or two weeks, or in comfortable one-day workshops for non-scientists and policymakers that provide an overview of topics such as Global environmental issues; Introductory Ecology; Population-environment; Carrying capacity / Limiting Factors;  Food, water, and sustainability; Thresholds, tipping points, and unintended consequencesEcological release; Biodiversity and Conservation, etc.

COLLECTION TWO – Priority population-environment collection for Academia and Policymakers
an open-courseware collection of brief and easy "executive summary" PDFs which is accessible at http://www.scribd.com/collections/3655003/Population-for-Academia-a...

 

As a quick first example, see the following population-environment-sustainability PowerPoint which is accessible at http://www.scribd.com/doc/118659074/Population-Carrying-Capacity-and-Limiting-Factors-ppt-version


Other examples

PPT- Classical real-world “too-late” population calamities in seemingly ‘empty’ environments?  http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/29284061?access_key=key-1d5uc7f665...  (2/1000ths of 1% occupied   /  99.998% unoccupied)

PPT- Ecological Services and Biospheric Life-support Machinery
http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/30231732?access_key=key-x4cwny8s65...

PPT - Earth's Atmosphere and Seas as Razor-thin Surface Films
http://www.scribd.com/full/28709867?access_key=key-2nz7qoeakn2mqnl8...

PPT - An Introduction to World Population and Demographics
http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/18366094?access_key=key-20iiu722r2...

PDF - Conservation - Why 10% Goals May Permit Collapse
http://www.scribd.com/doc/56393467/Conservation-Why-10-goals-are-no...

PDF - Population Momentum - On Steroids
http://www.calameo.com/read/000676519911b1dd3185d
(...The greatest single risk in the history of our species...)

PDF - A Billion Pages of Theoretical Physics? - How LARGE is a Billion?
http://www.calameo.com/read/000676519a0f5f8d39904  (Hint: The answer is 38,461years)

 

The above open-courseware resources are provided courtesy of The Wecskaop Project (What every citizen should know about our planet).  Related resources are accessible at http://www.scribd.com/TheWecskaopProject

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