Submitted Fall, 2005
During the 2004-2005 academic year 202 students were enrolled in the M.S. Biology online. 11 students graduated from the program. Both direct and indirect measures were used in collecting data on these graduates. We will be preparing the Assessment Plan for delivery in May 2006 and will begin to report data in the Oct. 2006 assessment report, based on that plan. The Online degree is a non-thesis option but students take all the same required classes as on-campus M.S. students and are assessed based on the same materials.
In Biology 881, online students are required to watch pre-recorded seminars and then prepare their own seminars on current topics. The students create PowerPoint presentations and use voice recording to deliver the seminar. During the Spring semester of 2005, a total of 53 students created presentations. Using the same scoring rubric as for on-campus students, the distance student’s seminar scores ranged from 82 to 99 with an average of 92.18.
As part of the degree requirements, all online students are required to take a proctored comprehensive exam. The exam was offered for the first time during the summer of 2005 and nine students completed it. The exam consisted of 100 multiple choice questions based on knowledge gained in required classes. The scores ranged from 65 to 82. In addition to the multiple choice section, students were required to answer 4 essay questions about their final project. Scores on this portion of the exam ranged from 11/20 to 17/20. Of the 9 students taking the exam, scores ranged between 65% and 82%.
The essay portion of the exam was assessed using the Masters Comprehensive Exam Scoring Rubric.
Distance Biology students also filled out a written exit interview consisting of five questions.
Exit interview questions. This section is not graded. Please give us an honest evaluation to aid in improving our program.
- During your independent research project, what do you believe is your greatest accomplishment?
- Do you anticipate continuing to collect data in an area related to your research project, either for fun or as part of your job? Please elaborate.
- Based on your expectations and desires for pursuing an advanced degree prior to enrolling at UNK, how successful was this program in accomplishing your goals?
- Please comment on your experiences as a Masters student. What classes did you find to be the most useful in meeting your career goals and why?
- Reflecting on your experiences during the Masters program, what suggestions would you offer for improvement to the program?
Exit interview questions outcomes:
1. During your independent research project, what do you believe is your greatest accomplishment?
Student A –
- Collecting date that was significant
- Undergoing a ‘true’ scientific experiment that was well thought out and researched
Student B– Working on a “real, live” researcher project! Seriously, in teaching elementary school and only having a minor in BIOLOGY. I feel I have accomplished a great deal in the past 2 ½ years, can’t believe I am this close. The research is very interesting, and working with – scientific method, hypothesis, statistics etc. - a very worthwhile and fulfilling requirement!
Student C – I think learning to do a literature search and learning to use primary literature was one of my greatest accomplishments while doing the independent research project and throughout the entire program. The sequence of the six independent research hours is very effective at leading a student through the process. It seemed nearly undoable at the beginning of the creating of the annotated bibliography containing 50 sources. However, when I was writing my final report, the annotated bibliography was invaluable.
Student D – Being able to d the statistical analysis myself. If I hadn’t taken biostatistics, I would have been lost. That and synecology really led me to how t analyze my data.
Student E – Keying out to family 12,908 insects. The data analysis, as you can imagine with this amount of data was daunting. I spent several weeks on this portion of the research.
Student F – During my project I learned that not every data works. I had a great idea of how to start but that process resulted in no results, twice. So I had to modify my project, then one of my bacteria did not want to grow. My greatest accomplishment for this project was to complete it and to show that there are alternatives that may replace the use of merticlate
2. Do you anticipate continuing to collect data in an area related to your research project, either for fun or as part of your job? Please elaborate.
Student A – I will run drift bucket fences in the future, Having moved this summer, it will be interesting to see what organisms drop into the bucket 2.5 hours North East of the old location.
Student B – Yes, I plan to collect in July (late) and August. Not necessarily for fun (it’s a huge, hot day each time) but because I feel it is worthwhile. I am interested in completing a project that is worth more than simply a grade!
Student C – I would like to continue my research project for fun. The original idea was to discover if pine needle mulch would improve the yield of strawberry plants. I still intend to put needles around my plants and see what results I obtain. I also intend to do many more long term research projects with the student I teach.
Student D – I don’t think that I will ever walk by a cattle tank without looking at what is in there. My kids are the same way. My four year old loves to look for bugs. Setting up a cattle tank for observation would be a great learning opportunity.
Student E – I don’t think I will be placing pitfall traps in the burned areas again. However, when I am up in the mountains and observe the insects there, I am more familiar with the taxonomy. I may teach my students the pitfall trap technique to use in field studies that we conduct, for it is a great was to collect insects!
Student F – At this time it is not logistically possible for me to continue to work on this project. Currently I am thinking of some kind of project I can do at home to keep working in the field of research. This summer I started to collect insects that I have not noticed before in my garden I still need to ID them
3. Based on your expectations and desires for pursuing an advanced degree prior to enrolling at UNK, how successful was this program in accomplishing your goals?
Student A – Through the roof! The program was successful in making me better scientist, educator, and writer.
Student B – I can honestly say that while at time there have been struggles, the overall sense of accomplishment I feel is huge. UNK Biology staff has worked hard to implement an online course of value to this field and I believe they have gone beyond what was needed to do so. The on-line format is outstanding and makes accomplishment possible.
Student C – My goal since undergraduate graduation has been to obtain a Master’s. The UNK program was to first one that provided this opportunity for me. It was wonderful to not have to leave my family or disrupt my career to obtain this goal. Additionally, I feel the quality of the program and high expectations make this an accomplishment I can be proud of.
Student D – This program is more rigorous that I expected. Thank goodness I cut my teeth on Organic Evolution and Conservations Biology. They were two tough courses that gave my a yardstick to measure by. Excellent progam. I feel like I have really accomplished something.
Student E – My goal for this degree was to gain a more in-depth understanding of life and also to challenge myself academically. I also think this was part of my mid-life crisis – do this before I no longer have the ability (be it financial or cognitive!). O am very prod that I was able to complete this in 7 semesters, hold down a full-time teaching job, be a mother to two teenage sons, and retain some sanity.
Student F – This program was successful in accomplishing my goals by providing an atmosphere where I could work on my classes at my own time. Additionally the faculty at UNK was very helpful with questions and supportive.
4. Please comment on your experiences as a Masters student. What classes did you find to be the most useful in meeting your career goals and why?
- Advanced Conservation was great – held my interest the most
- The sex class was great even if it was only 1 credit hour
- The evolution theme throughout was wonderful
- The process of successfully completing my research was great – intro to grad helped a bunch.
Student B– All classes useful for career – all increased pay and gave me (almost) my Masters. But, more importantly, I was able to pursue an area of interest to me that otherwise would have been next to impossible. Because of this interest, but perhaps an honest lack of knowledge and application some classes were easier to handle than others. To sum up my Master’s program time, it has been very well spent and I will always be thankful for the opportunity and experience.
Student Cl – As stated earlier, the entire program has been useful in showing me the importance of the research and maintaining currency in my field. I did not take and classes during this program that I felt were a waste of time. However, I will list some specific examples of how the courses helped in my professional career.
Synecology and ( I don’t remember the name – summer 2003) – These ecology classes introduced me to many concepts I had never heard before. As an environmental science teacher. I have integrated much of the content.
Life Science Curriculum – This course should be required for every science teacher in the state of Nebraska. WOW!
Human Physiology (with Dr. Steele) – Helpful to me as an A & P teacher. Also really taught me to critically read scientific literature.
Epidemics, Sexual Evolution – All extremely informative. I learned many things
Intro to Grad, Current Issues, Research – Probably enough said already – but these courses helped me to become a “scientist” not just a science teacher. They helped me to become current in my field.
Student D – For career goals – they all added to moving me up on the pay scale (ha – ha). I really understand what I am teaching. Learning is my favorite think to do. I wonder what I will tackle next.
Student E – The most beneficial class was Organic Evolution. It was the hardest class to cram into a summer session, and the first one to boot! I also gained a lot from the Epidemic class. We covered a wide array of topics. Both classes have helped me augment my ability to enhance my teaching. They have also helped me answer student’s questions.
The biological statistics class greatly helped me to understand date analysis for my research. It was very frustrating though, typing out all the formulas & hand calculating many weeks of assignments. I wish more time was spent using different statistical software & figuring out how to set up the data so analysis could occur. That would have helped in my research.
Lastly – the technique of creating annotated bibliographies – as learned in Into to Grad Studies, has helped my writing of papers in every class. I just wish I had done that in the two semesters previous to that class!
Student F– At this point I am not sure what my career goals are. My job function and path have changed since I started this program. The class that has change the way I think the most was the evolution class. I can say I truly understand evolution now. Additionally the current issues classes was very informative and caused me to do my own research of information discussed.
5. Reflecting on your experiences during the Master program, what suggestions would you offer for improvement to the program?
Student A –
- Limit enrollment – you guys (professors) are stretched much more thin than even just last year.
- Keep mixing u the types of assessment and discussion board/chat stuff.
- Keep challenging the participation if it becomes easy – everyone will do it.
Student B – Some ideas from students view point – faster turn around time on homework and get papers back w/ comments either by mail or on-line. Time is an issue, I know but many times, all I have seen is a posted grade. We need to know where points are lost in order to improve. Otherwise – outstanding program!
Student C –
- I liked most of the texts. However, often when two texts were required, I felt it disrupted the flow of the class (ex. Synecology – Spring 2005) (P.S. Thank you for keeping the costs down with nontraditional texts!)
- Continue to work on the quality of the tapes. They have much improved during my 2 1/2 years. Also have power points w white backgrounds is best.
- When a class is taught by multiple instructors, please make sure that the ball doesn’t get dropped. The multiple instructor strategy works fine when everybody has specifically spelled out duties. (ex Biological Perspective – Summer 2005 – excellent division of duties by 3-4 professors.)
- My last to comments are minor issues. I know all instructors of the program must get overwhelmed by sheer volume since this program is so large.
- Grading time on assignments – has really deteriorated. It’s hard to improve what we are writing without feedback
- Use more care when mailing assignments back – I had 2 of my assignment mailed to other students (who were kind enough to forward them on). I also has 1 test that I never received back
Student D – I think there have been big improvements throughout the program. In dealing the actual power points in course documents really helps. The best think about the program is the flexibility that you have allowed with assignment deadlines. Believe me, as a teacher I can’t stand to hear excuses. But my experiences with deadlines tells me that shxt happens and from now on I’ll take a legitimate excuse. Understanding that we add this program onto an already hectic life in invaluable.
Student E – At the beginning of the program it was nice to have the small class sizes. Students got to know each other & some repore with each other was generated. Lately, however, the classes are overwhelmingly large. Granted, this show the success of the program, but it makes me less comfortable with class discussions.
I hope you continue to add more class offerings. I enjoyed the Readings Classes. The one on Sexual Selection felt like a 3 hour class rather than 1 hour. Lots of reading, discussing and writing. The only thing lacking was video lectures.
Student F – First I would like to say I really enjoyed this program and the experiences. This program has become very popular and successful. I do believe though that when I started in Fall 2003 that the smaller classes were better and people really got to know each other, and discussed topics more readily. The larger classes w/ the small subset work but it seems that those I have been in do not bring as mush conversation into the class as before.