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The need to adapt quickly to online or remote instruction has been a challenge for instructors during the COVID pandemic. A common issue instructors face is finding high-quality curricular materials that can enhance student learning by engaging them in solving complex, real-world problems. The current study evaluates a set of 15 web-based learning modules that promote the use of authentic, high-cognitive demand tasks. The modules were developed collaboratively by a group of instructors during a HydroLearn hackathon-workshop program. The modules cover various topics in hydrology and water resources, including physical hydrology, hydraulics, climate change, groundwater flow and quality, fluid mechanics, open channel flow, remote sensing, frequency analysis, data science, and evapotranspiration. The study evaluates the impact of the modules on students’ learning in terms of two primary aspects: understanding of fundamental concepts and improving technical skills. The study uses a practical instrument to measure students’ perceived changes in concepts and technical skills known as the Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) survey. The survey was used at two-time points in this study: before the students participated in the module (pre) and at the conclusion of the module (post). The surveys were modified to capture the concepts and skills aligned with the learning objectives of each module. We calculated the learning gains by examining differences in students’ self-reported understanding of concepts and skills from pre- to post-implementation on the SALG using paired samples t -tests. The majority of the findings were statistically at the 0.05 level and practically significant. As measured by effect size, practical significance is a means for identifying the strength of the conclusions about a group of differences or the relationship between variables in a study. The average effect size in educational research is d = 0.4. The effect sizes from this study [0.45, 1.54] suggest that the modules play an important role in supporting students’ gains in conceptual understanding and technical skills. The evidence from this study suggests that these learning modules can be a promising way to deliver complex subjects to students in a timely and effective manner.more » « less
The interaction between climate and the hydrologic cycle is complex due to intricate feedback mechanisms that can have multiple impacts on key hydrologic variables. Under a changing climate, it is becoming increasingly important for undergraduate engineering students to have a better understanding of climate and the hydrologic cycle to ensure future engineering systems are more climate resilient. One way of teaching undergraduate students about these key interactions between climate and the hydrologic cycle is through numerical models that mimic these relationships. However, this is difficult to do in an undergraduate engineering course because these models are complex, and it is not feasible to devote class time and resources to teaching students the knowledge base required to run and analyze these numerical models. In addition, the recent COVID-19 pandemic required a rapid change to flexible teaching methods that can be implemented in online, hybrid, or in-person courses. To overcome these limitations, a backward design and constructive alignment approach was used to develop an active learning module in the HydroLearn framework that allows students to explore the connection between snow processes and streamflow and how this will change under different climate scenarios using numerical models and analysis. This learning module provides learning activities and tools that help the student develop a basic knowledge of snow formation and terminology, snow measurements, numerical models of snow processes, and changes in snow and streamflow under future climate. This module is particularly innovative in that it uses Google Colabs and an interactive user interface to facilitate the students' active learning in an environment that is accessible for all students and is sustainable for continued use and adaptation. This paper describes the approach, best practices and lessons learned in developing and implementing this active learning module in a remote and in-person course. In addition, it presents the results from motivation and student self-assessment surveys and discusses opportunities for improvement and further implementation that have implications for the future of hydrologic education.more » « less
The creation of high-quality curricular materials requires knowledge of curriculum design and a considerable time commitment. Instructors often have limited time to dedicate to the creation of curricular materials. Additionally, the knowledge and skills needed to develop high-quality materials are often not taught to instructors. Furthermore, similar learning material is often prepared by multiple instructors working at separate institutions, leading to unnecessary duplication of effort and inefficiency that can impact quality. To address these problems, we established the HydroLearn platform and associated professional learning experiences for hydrology and water resources instructors. HydroLearn is an online platform for developing and sharing high-quality curricular materials, or learning modules, focused on hydrology and water resources. The HydroLearn team has worked with three cohorts of instructors from around the world who were dedicated to creating high-quality curricular materials to support both their students and the broader community. In order to overcome some of the aforementioned barriers, we tested and revised several different models of professional learning with these cohorts. These models ranged from (a) instructors working individually with periodic guidance from the HydroLearn team, to (b) small groups of instructors collaborating on topics of shared interests guided through an intensive HydroLearn training workshop. We found the following factors to contribute to the success of instructors in creating modules: (1) instructor pairs co-creating modules enhanced the usability and transferability of modules between universities and courses, (2) dedicating an intensive block of time (∼63 h over 9 days) to both learning about and implementing curriculum design principles, (3) implementing structures for continuous feedback throughout that time, (4) designing modules for use in one’s own course, and (5) instituting a peer-review process to refine modules. A comprehensive set of learning modules were produced covering a wide range of topics that target undergraduate and early graduate students, such as: floodplain analysis, hydrologic droughts, remote sensing applications in hydrology, urbanization and stormwater runoff, evapotranspiration, snow and climate, groundwater flow, saltwater intrusion in coastal regions, and stream solute tracers. We share specifics regarding how we structured the professional learning models, as well as lessons learned and challenges faced.more » « less
null (Ed.)Abstract Engineering students need to spend time engaging in mathematical modeling tasks to reinforce their learning of mathematics through its application to authentic problems and real world design situations. Technological tools and resources can support this kind of learning engagement. We produced an online module that develops students’ mathematical modeling skills while developing knowledge of the fundamentals of rainfall-runoff processes and engineering design. This study examined how 251 students at two United States universities perceived mathematical modeling as implemented through the online module over a 5-year period. We found, subject to the limitation that these are perceptions from not all students, that: (a) the module allowed students to be a part of the modeling process; (b) using technology, such as modeling software and online databases, in the module helped students to understand what they were doing in mathematical modeling; (c) using the technology in the module helped students to develop their skill set; and (d) difficulties with the technology and/or the modeling decisions they had to make in the module activities were in some cases barriers that interfered with students’ ability to learn. We advocate for instructors to create modules that: (a) are situated within a real-world context, requiring students to model mathematically to solve an authentic problem; (b) take advantage of digital tools used by engineers to support students’ development of the mathematical and engineering skills needed in the workforce; and (c) use student feedback to guide module revisions.more » « less
null (Ed.)This article presents an online teaching tool that introduces students to basic concepts of remote sensing and its applications in hydrology. The learning module is intended for junior/senior undergraduate students or junior graduate students with no (or little) prior experience in remote sensing, but with some basic background of environmental science, hydrology, statistics, and programming. This e-learning environment offers background content on the fundamentals of remote sensing, but also integrates a set of existing online tools for visualization and analysis of satellite observations. Specifically, students are introduced to a variety of satellite products and techniques that can be used to monitor and analyze changes in the hydrological cycle. At completion of the module, students are able to visualize remote sensing data (both in terms of time series and spatial maps), detect temporal trends, interpret satellite images, and assess errors and uncertainties in a remote sensing product. Students are given the opportunity to check their understanding as they progress through the module and also tackle complex real-life problems using remote sensing observations that professionals and scientists commonly use in practice. The learning tool is implemented in HydroLearn, an open-source, online platform for instructors to find and share learning modules and collaborate on developing teaching resources in hydrology and water resources.more » « less
The era of ‘big data’ promises to provide new hydrologic insights, and open web‐based platforms are being developed and adopted by the hydrologic science community to harness these datasets and data services. This shift accompanies advances in hydrology education and the growth of web‐based hydrology learning modules, but their capacity to utilize emerging open platforms and data services to enhance student learning through data‐driven activities remains largely untapped. Given that generic equations may not easily translate into local or regional solutions, teaching students to explore how well models or equations work in particular settings or to answer specific problems using real data is essential. This article introduces an open web‐based module developed to advance data‐driven hydrologic process learning, targeting upper level undergraduate and early graduate students in hydrology and engineering. The module was developed and deployed on the HydroLearn open educational platform, which provides a formal pedagogical structure for developing effective problem‐based learning activities. We found that data‐driven learning activities utilizing collaborative open web platforms like CUAHSI HydroShare and JupyterHub to store and run computational notebooks allowed students to access and work with datasets for systems of personal interest and promoted critical evaluation of results and assumptions. Initial student feedback was generally positive, but also highlighted challenges including trouble‐shooting and future‐proofing difficulties and some resistance to programming and new software. Opportunities to further enhance hydrology learning include better articulating the benefits of coding and open web platforms upfront, incorporating additional user‐support tools, and focusing methods and questions on implementing and adapting notebooks to explore fundamental processes rather than tools and syntax. The profound shift in the field of hydrology toward big data, open data services and reproducible research practices requires hydrology instructors to rethink traditional content delivery and focus instruction on harnessing these datasets and practices in the preparation of future hydrologists and engineers.