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Rhetoric on Online Education Integrity

Norma Hollebeke,
Director of Strategic Initiatives

The integrity of online education has been questioned recently by presidential candidates and examined in an article for Inside Higher Ed. Included in the discussions are topics such as diploma mills, MOOCs, and accreditation, with some dialogue anchored in legitimate concerns while the uninformed and/or misinformed have produced other rhetoric.

At Carolina Distance Learning™, we believe online education can have the same rigor and integrity as on-campus education.

For more than 85 years, Carolina Biological Supply Company has provided institutions of higher education with the best science materials and service. We support the advancement of science education by developing products that exceed accepted standards. Our company is now meeting the demands of distance learning courses by offering comprehensive and rigorous lab kits for college science distance education.

Science courses require the active learning strategies found at the heart of scientific inquiry, because after all, the best way to learn science is to do science. A constructivist view of learning recognizes that students need time to interact with objects, organisms, substances, and equipment to develop a range of experiences on which to base their thinking.

Too often, lab activities ask students to follow a recipe—performing simple hands-on activities step by step, carefully following specific instructions, occasionally collecting small data sets, and reaching a particular outcome. This approach neglects the fundamental components of scientific inquiry: observation, innovation, reasoning, and problem solving. Similarly, these practices create deficits in skills and learning outcomes.

The reality of offering lab-based science courses via online formats has led college educators and administrators to consider the fundamentals of the science lab experience.

Well-designed labs that rely on kits to satisfy the hands-on, inquiry component of online science courses are pivotal to engaging students, helping them achieve essential learning outcomes, and promoting deeper learning.

Lab kits that are developed around the fundamentals of scientific inquiry deliver the appropriate proficiencies for observation, reasoning, problem solving, and innovation. Inquiry-based experiences involve students in direct experimentation and require that they develop explanations through critical thinking. Students ask questions, observe, analyze, explain, draw conclusions, and ask new questions.

This model promotes the integrity of online science education by emphasizing the use of lab materials, acquiring critical lab skills, and actively engaging students in their learning.

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