Teaching Science at a Distance - Strategies that Work!

Teaching Science at a Distance - Strategies that Work!

Friday, May 4, 2007

The New York Academy of Sciences

Presented By

Presented by the Science Education Section



Phillip A. Ortiz, Center for Distance Learning, SUNY - Empire State College

The Center for Distance Learning (CDL) of Empire State College employs innovative pedagogy to create WWW-based courses that facilitate learning and maximize success in nontraditional ways. In this presentation Dr. Phillip Ortiz of CDL will demonstrate and discuss several existing online lower and upper-level natural science courses. He will present and illustrate some of the pedagogical techniques that Empire State College faculty are incorporating in CDL distance learning courses. Dr. Ortiz will also explain the objectives for using these techniques, the methods by which he and his colleagues judge success, and the students' depth and quality of learning. In addition, he will describe his own and other faculty members' experiences in teaching via this method.

Distance learning is perhaps the most misunderstood and maligned topic in higher education. As only one of the methods by which students can learn, it has the potential to reach students for whom 'traditional' learning is not an option, as well as enhance the other methods. That is not to say that distance learning, like any other method of learning, is without shortcomings. Certainly there are content and skills that are best taught through other methods, and students for whom it is not appropriate. Empire State College faculty at CDL work to identify the content that can be taught well via distance learning, and are continually revising their pedagogical approach so as to provide the optimum learning experience. Via careful mentoring CDL faculty also make recommendations to students as to which learning methods are available and work with them to maximize success in their studies.


At Empire State College my interests include the pedagogy of online and distance learning in SMT and the educational and professional development of minority scientists. During my five plus years at Empire State I have led the development of more than 15 online natural science courses and been very active as a mentor. The courses developed include those in the areas of biology, chemistry, physics, and the Earth sciences. They have a wide target audience - science majors (lower and upper level) and non-majors, matriculating and non-matriculating students, and are taken by students all over the United States and abroad. In these courses a number of innovative pedagogical approaches have been taken to help students master the scientific content and methods appropriate for the discipline.

The vast majority of my prior laboratory research work at all levels of my education and professional activity has been related to the study of diabetes mellitus. As a graduate student much of my work was applicable to insulin secretion and type 1 diabetes (also called IDDM or juvenile diabetes). My postgraduate work at NIH/NIDDK on insulin responsiveness in adipose tissues is applicable to type 2 diabetes (also called NIDDM or adult diabetes). During previous faculty appointments I was engaged in several projects applicable to both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

As a former member of the Executive Council of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the past chairperson and current member of their Minority Affairs Committee, I have had the opportunity to participate in the setting of the society' s agenda and sessions for its annual meetings, organize educational opportunities, contribute to task forces organized by the National Institutes of Health, and participate in meetings organized by the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS). Of note is that I was named