Principal Investigator:

Funders: National Science Foundation

With the rapid increase in online degree programs for teachers, it is imperative to understand what is happening in this new learning environment – yet to date, meta-studies in online education have focused primarily on institutional support and accessibility for students. Learning Science Online (LSO) is the first multi-institutional study of science courses taught online for teachers. LSO studied forty courses delivered online by six different programs in 2004-2005 and asked:

  • Who are the students in online science courses for teachers?
  • Who are the instructors?
  • What does teaching and learning look like in these courses?

LSO findings show that online courses are reaching a different audience than other forms of professional development, for both students and instructors. As compared to general US science teaching force, online science courses have more females, more early career teachers, and more teachers from small towns and rural communities.

Teaching and learning also look very different online. Communications comes to the forefront in these courses, with students and instructors using discussion boards many times per week to share scientific ideas, questions, and investigations. Other technological tools such as simulations and visualizations were surprisingly absent. This report provides the groundwork for many potential future projects in science learning, online education, and teacher professional development.

Download: PDF of the full report

Download: PDF of the executive summary