Online STEM Education: The Time Is Now

Concurrent Session 8
OLC Session

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Brief Abstract

In 1989, William Wulf described the concept of a “collaboratory” as a “center without walls in which the nation’s researchers can perform their research without regard to physical location, interacting with colleagues, assessing instrumentation and sharing data and computational resources.” While multiple examples demonstrate the validity of this vision -from remote science on Mars to underwater observatories on earth, institutions of higher learning have been slow at adopting proven strategies for teaching science online. Virtual simulations have opened the door to new ways of teaching laboratory science, online instrumentation provides unprecedented access to instrumentation and advanced science kits allow students to conduct sophisticated experiments. These, and other approaches, can meet all five of the OLC quality pillars (access, effectiveness, scale, students and faculty). With ample evidence of its effectiveness, why has online science not scaled and been universally adopted. Join this panel of experts for an OLC lead discussion on STEM education and strategies to scale online science.


Devon A. Cancilla, Ph.D., is the Chief Knowledge Officer with the Online Learning Consortium. Prior to this, Devon was the Vice Provost for Academic Innovation at UMKC. Devon also served as Dean and then Associate Provost for Learning at American Sentinel University, a fully online institution. He was an Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Director of Scientific Technical Services (SciTech) at Western Washington University (WWU) where he led the development of the Integrated Laboratory Network (ILN), an online laboratory initiative funded by the National Science Foundation. Devon has received both the Sloan-C (now OLC) Outstanding Achievement Award for Online Education and an Effective Practice Award for his research into the development and use of online laboratories. He attended the University of Iowa, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and UCLA, where he received his doctorate in Environmental Health Science. Devon’s current research interests relate to the use of analytics in the design and development of online courses. Devon lives in Bellingham, Washington.
Dan Branan earned his Ph.D. from the University of Denver in 2003, his M.S. from The Ohio State University in 1996, and his B.S from The University of South Alabama in 1988, all in Chemistry. Although a chemist by training, Dan’s real passion is for mentoring, teaching and learning. He spent two years as Co-Director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the USAF Academy, and was an Assistant Professor of Chemistry there from 1996 to 1999 and from 2005 to 2011. He taught online chemistry courses for Colorado Community Colleges Online from 2006 – 2015, also serving as Program Chair for Life Sciences and Natural Sciences (2011 – 2012), and was the Director of the North American Network of Science Labs Online (NANSLO) remote science laboratory in Denver, CO from 2012 - 2015. He has taught online chemistry courses for Western Governors University Teacher’s College since 2015.
Shannon is the Director of Distance Learning for Carolina Biological Supply Company. She is responsible for all facets of development, product selection and product marketing for all college level science online courses and products. With Master’s degrees in both Biology and Education, Shannon joined Carolina in 2015 with more than 15 years of higher education experience, 10 of which were spent in the online learning community as both an administrator and instructor. Her experience includes curriculum development, instructional design, and compliance and accreditation. She and her team have helped hundreds of colleges and universities adapt their science courses to the online learning environment.
Dr. Vanmali has been a science educator for more than 15 years, teaching classes as small as ten students and as large as 500. In all settings, her goal is to help students master content in a meaningful way that enables them to retain and use the information. To that end, she creates and seeks out innovative approaches to teaching that both engage and inspire student learning. Dr. Vanmali has held positions in the School of Life Sciences and the Provost's Office at Arizona State University, where she worked on curriculum, course development and reform, faculty professional development, and building interdisciplinary online science courses. At the University of Texas-Austin, she served as the Executive Director of the Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Science (TIDES), where she worked with faculty and colleagues on faculty development, freshmen research initiatives, curriculum development, and other science education initiatives. Currently, she is the Program Director for Sciences at Grand Canyon University, focused on curriculum building and reform, faculty development, and other science learning-related efforts, including online science learning.
An educator with more than 10 years of experience in high school and community college settings, Melissa focuses primarily on outreach and content development for undergraduate introductory biology courses. She also manages logistics for all outreach and professional development events. Before she began teaching, Melissa managed a research lab in the cardiology department at the University of Pittsburgh. She holds a master’s degree in chemical and life sciences from the University of Maryland.

Extended Abstract