fbpx

STEM teaching via the Internet: why and how to address the delivery issue?

November 27, 2020


As a high school science or college teacher, have you considered teaching STEM subjects online? The concept of STEM teaching online is floating for a while now. However, online teaching was mainly introduced for high-education students. A common approach to online teaching is that the teacher/instructor basically reads out a PowerPoint presentation or teaches in front of a camera for 45 minutes or so. There is no teacher-student interaction and the teachers remain unaware if the students have internalized the learning material or not.

The challenge becomes manifold when you consider teaching technology and/or engineering subjects, especially when students are from a group that has not been previously exposed to technical training. This group mainly comprises of final year high school students or first-year college students.

Considering the importance and demand for STEM education at the high school and college level, this blog article discusses a few issues concerning online teaching of STEM subjects. In our view, STEM teaching online should consider the major advances of the Internet/Web, even though these constant advances bring challenges for the teacher/instructors as well.

About this blog article

The purpose of our article is to provide some suggestions on how to increase student engagement and achievement during an e-learning environment. STEM education given to the students should reflect the STEM existing in the world around them. When the education reflects the real-world, only then are the students competent for the future job world.

Preparation of STEM content, suitable for online delivery, plays a central role in delivering online STEM education. We anticipate the ever-increasing role of course or instructional designers, with technology or engineering background, to develop content suitable for online delivery. If you are a teacher/instructor or an education administrator, stay until the end so we can bring you some important information regarding online STEM teaching.

STEM teaching will benefit future high school graduating students
A significant number of high school students (as shown above), need STEM education – in-class and in the online format.

Why MOOC has been ineffective

The idea of e-learning had become an effective form of education. One such e-learning platform is MOOC – Massive Open Online Courses. MOOCs have been providing courses to mainly university students and working professionals. This article, however, describes several benefits of online education for high school students. While the MOOC courses have helped many, they had their share of downside as well. The main being low overall effectiveness and low completion rates.

One of the primary reasons for this lack of success was insufficient custom content and its course structure. MOOC also did not adjust the content based on technological advances that are available. For example, content must be byte-sized, so it is digestible and to the point., as attentiveness lacks in an e-learning format. We will discuss them more in our subsequent sections.

Challenges of blended STEM teaching

Delivering STEM education effectively via the Internet is not an easy task. One of the main challenges is the lack of in-person interaction between the teacher and his students. To fill this gap, teachers should consider blended teaching where the teachers use the course material in the class and provide some kind of handholding for the target audience.

Let us have a quick look at what we mean by the notion of blended teaching. By this term, we refer to integrating online teaching in traditional teaching methods. The integration of technology serves as a supplement and also helps improve the learning process.

Note that blended teaching by no means refers to providing videos, lectures, or slides to learners. It requires careful planning and implementation in a pedagogically valuable manner. Whereas blended teaching requires specific attention to content development, teachers should be able to focus more on teaching rather than course development.

In future, math and science teachers will participate in STEM teaching
A significant number of Math and science teachers (as mentioned above) must deliver online STEM education via blended teaching.

First step of STEM teaching: challenges of STEM content development

High schools in the US and Canada have excellent Science (S) and Mathematics or Math (M) teachers. However, most of these schools don’t have faculty for Technology (T) and Engineering (E) subjects. Understandably, for a Science and Math teacher, keeping up with STEM advancements requires the development and delivery of the right course content specifically for the areas of Technology (T) and Engineering (E). The situation in a college is somewhat different. Although the teachers in a college are good in T and E-courses they may not have the correct expertise (such as in the Instructional Design area) to develop and deliver STEM content for online teaching. See some samples here.

To develop high-quality course content, course developers must determine and set the key elements for online learning. These key elements include understanding the learning objectives for the target audience; an essential ingredient for the course structure.

An online STEM education’s success highly depends on the development and delivery of the right material via the right approach. Thus, the above-given elements, serve as the pathway to effective, high-quality e-learning experiences for both teachers and students.

Features of STEM content for online delivery

STEM content should be designed for effective learning. It must take advantage of the recent advances in Web technology. The main features should be like this:

  1. The learning modules or courses should include graphics, animations, and proper pedagogy.
  2. The content must be well-designed and aligned with the current and future web browser technology.
  3. The content must provide a strong learning experience that utilizes both audio and video teaching aids. Moreover, the curriculum must include effective substitutes for laboratory experiments, practical examples for conceptual learning, and self-assessment MCQs (Multiple-choice questions).
  4. Course structure must be modular in nature so the target audience with different levels of competencies can comprehend technical information delivered on a computer screen.

One important consideration is that the content must be digestible by the target audience. This is necessary because attentiveness decreases in the e-learning format, so byte-sized content should be used and encouraged. Take advantage of glossaries for content development or provide some analogies to explain the content in proper context.

Note that we cannot underestimate the role of well-designed content in its effectiveness and learnability.

Role of a content developer

Giving due focus to Technology (T) and Engineering (E) content development is a critical aspect of STEM teaching. Although college teachers/instructors are capable of teaching T and E subjects, both college and high-school teachers are not able to develop content for online teaching.

It can be difficult for the instructors to meet all the content requirements, especially in T and E area. This is where a need for professional content developers including subject matter experts comes in. While the course administration can work on effective delivery of the content, the experienced content developers can develop the right content according to your students learning objectives.

A content developer must design informative and engaging content [refer to our e-learning portal] that can intrigue the students. Employing the right use of graphics, illustrations, and animations can make the content engaging. As a result, it will provide an effective learning regime and drive them to complete the course. Hence, appropriately designed, online courses provide opportunities for learners to prepare themselves for future jobs.

Ensuring success of STEM teaching: delivery of STEM content

Once the course has been designed, it must be delivered to the students via effective methodology. With the high-speed Internet, sophisticated browsers, and browser-based tools now readily available, students can access online content seamlessly. In addition, low-cost educational devices like laptops – with higher resolution – are essential technical requirements today. Many known companies like Google, Microsoft, HP are working towards supporting both the e-learning and blended education eco-system by releasing low-cost devices for students.

Needless to say, once the students are able to access the right course content on their screens, the learning process becomes effective. It allows them to grow in their space and relate the classroom content to the outside world and hence prepare themselves for the professional world.

Conclusion

As high schools and colleges are gearing to implement e-learning programs, teachers and administrators must find a way to ensure a conceptual and interactive learning experience. Defining clear learning objectives, in this sense, is the outset of successful teaching. In this endeavor, the role of well-designed digital content cannot be underestimated for STEM education as it factors in the challenges of distant learning. Teachers may opt to use this content in a blended teaching setting to make learning more effective. The aim is that both high school and college students acquire technical skills, problem-solving abilities, and technological competencies for the future world.