Science Department Leads Academic Innovation
Gaining National Recognition
Kaplan University’s Science Department is gaining national recognition for its contributions to academic innovation. At a recent conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE), faculty member Heather Miller, PhD, presented a paper she wrote with Science Department Chair Celine Santiago Bass, PhD, and Maureen Foley, MS.
How do you get non-science majors excited about their required science courses? According to Science Chair Celine Santiago Bass, PhD, it all boils down to a three-part formula: relevance + engagement + support.
1. Relevance: Connecting Science to Career and Life
“There’s no getting around the fact that science is all around you,” says Santiago Bass. “We make a point of drawing connections between science, our students’ current career choices, and day-to-day life experiences.”
For instance, in the Principles of Nutrition course, students are asked to journal and analyze what they eat in a day. Their intake is then compared to recommended nutritional guidance for adults, children, pregnant mothers, and even the elderly. “The class touches on nutritional needs at all stages of life,” says Santiago Bass. “So students can see how to improve their lifestyles and those of their family members.”
What is perhaps most relevant of all, however, is that the science faculty teaches students how to reason. Discussions and assignments are based on the scientific method that, they say, is applicable to virtually every decision we make in a day.
“Science will help you in life because it provides you with a process to dig in deeper to whatever story you’ve been told,” explains faculty member Heather Miller, PhD. “For example, in one class we ask our students to go out and learn where the ingredients in their last meal came from. Then we look at the impact of those sources on the economy and our world.”
“These sorts of assignments teach you how to ask productive questions to get at the truth. They teach you how to be empowered with information.”
2. Engagement: Pushing the Envelope With “Hot Topics”
Evolution and stem cell research are just two of the “hot topics” used to spark engagement in Big Ideas in Science, a required course for all General Education students. By promoting science through challenging concepts, students from a range of majors, including criminal justice, nutrition, accounting, and business, are able to place science in the context of their daily lives and future careers.
“I have taught science online for many institutions,” explains Miller. “What strikes me most is how Kaplan University is not afraid to push the envelope with hot topics. That adds strength and power to the classroom.”
3. Support: Leveraging the Power of the Science Center
Under the leadership of Maureen Foley, MS, all students taking science courses are invited to make use of the Science Center, which hosts:
- Live seminars and workshops
- Study sessions
- 20 hours of live tutoring per week with Kaplan University faculty members
- Q&A center that promises 24- to 48-hour turnaround time
- Engaging videos, interactive practice problems, and more
“Some institutions have tutoring support and some have online centers,” says Foley. “To my knowledge, though, no other institution has the breadth of support that we do.”
- The average home contributes more air pollution than the average car.
- Enough sunlight falls on the earth's surface every hour to meet world energy demand for an entire year.
- The United States consumes 25% of all the world’s energy.
- The human brain uses approximately as much energy as a 10-watt light bulb.
- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a region in the Eastern Pacific Ocean the size of Texas, contains about 2.5 million tons of trash, mostly plastic.
- The U.S. is the world leader in power generation from wind; wind energy currently meets 2% of our energy needs.