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Faculty Focused

ANTH 101 Introduction to Anthropology

Maureen Meyers

Maureen Meyers

While I have taught this course for almost ten years online and used a few online sources to supplement the reading, the WOW grant enabled me to change the course to using only online sources. This appealed to a lot of students taking a summer online course. Some were taking it while working full-time, and it was easier to not have to worry about a book. But often my summer students are taking summer classes because they were trying to save time and money. Some have children and work full-time jobs while trying to earn their degree. Others are more traditional students who are trying to earn their degree more quickly than the traditional four years by taking summer classes. These latter two groups seemed to especially appreciate the lower costs.

I originally adapted my regular in-person ANTH 101 class to online resources as part of the “Z-Degree” program and through an Open Educational Resources grant. Unlike most other disciplines, anthropology does not currently have an online text. Instead, I spent a semester researching the many different resources available online to supplement lecture materials.

Resources were chosen based on a few factors. First, availability. Anthropology covers a wide range of topics, and some, like evolution, natural selection, and archaeology, are easier to find resources for. Other topics, like language or kinship, were more difficult. A second consideration was applicability—how well did the resource either define basic ideas or apply the ideas? Another consideration was layout and length. For some topics it was easy find a lot of information, but sometimes the layout made it difficult to understand, and sometimes I learned that I had to cull the sources or make some optional. Because I had already taught the course for a year using these resources, I was able to refine the resources I had identified before using them in the online class, based on student feedback.

Students particularly liked the varied resources available, which allowed them to learn from a range of different styles of information. This could include 3D representation of hominid skulls which allowed them to both learn about the different species but also actively see and manipulate the skull pictures to identify different biological traits that changed over time. An article I found that discussed the way humans adapt their walking style while texting was of interest to them and applied the lessons of bipedalism. Students also enjoyed a video showing over 1,000 years of habitation at an Old World site, and got a better understanding of how people’s use of landscape changes over time. Through the PBS website on race, they were able to identify stereotypes and understand the history of race.

Arial depiction of a 1,000 years of habitation at an Old World site from the Jarlshof Project

Arial depiction of a 1,000 years of habitation at an Old World site from the Jarlshof Project

To help them discuss and process the different information, I posed specific questions about the resources and placed the students into different discussion groups. In this way, the online experience became more like a traditional classroom, in which students could learn from one another and gain additional insights into the readings and material.

Student evaluations of the course showed that almost 86% of students felt that I appropriately utilized technology and tools, as compared to 67% of students in traditional classes. Students commented positively on the course structure and noted “I learned a great deal in this course” and “This was a perfect class to take online.”

Dr. Maureen Meyers
Sociology and Anthropology
2016 WOW! Grant Recipient