Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



Committee Chair(s)

James P. Evans


James P. Evans


This project examined the design and development of an online problem-based learning module to teach earth-system science to K-12 educators. The module revolved around identifying earth sphere (lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and atmosphere) interactions needed to produce mass fish mortality layers found in the Green River Formation at Fossil Butte National Monument. Students investigated the unique earth sphere combinations needed to produce mass fish mortality layers, reflected on the formation of such deposits, and examined the impact of these earth spheres on the earth system. As a supplement to the course, the students also analyzed data on fossils collected from a small research quarry on-site for potential fossil preservation bias, finding no clear bias in the sample data set. To gauge the effect of online problem-based learning on content knowledge, pre- and post-module assessments were given. The results of the assessments are ambiguous in terms of content development, due to the small sample size. Much was learned about developing, marketing and teaching online and problem-based learning courses. Specific suggestions to improve the delivery and value of such courses include improving course scheduling by only offering the course in summer, training instructors and students on teamwork skills, and making the classroom value of the course more apparent to the students.

Included in

Geology Commons