The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Making physical anthropology "physical" in the online classroom: Digital collections and virtual experiences


Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Women’s Studies, American Military University and American Public University

March 28, 2015 , Archview Ballroom Add to calendar

As higher education evolves more institutions are offering blended or fully online courses. This changing educational landscape may present challenges for anthropologists tasked with building an online course, particularly if their own background as a learner and teacher has focused on the traditional classroom. Designing online courses creates opportunities for working more collaboratively and creatively with colleagues and students. In building online courses, anthropologists can curate rich virtual classrooms from freely available online resources that enhance student engagement and build opportunity for experiential learning. The focus of this presentation is to examine best practices in designing online undergraduate physical anthropology courses. Specific strategies for mapping online content to established course objectives and to varying learner styles will be outlined. To develop and foster student knowledge and critical thinking, basic course content can come to life when paired with media content from colleagues at other institutions, online lab activities and simulations, and digital specimen collections. Assessments focused on experiential learning enhance traditional, text-based course materials and to create opportunities for students to see real world applications of physical anthropology. Experiential activities may include mini fieldwork projects, virtual visits to museums and field sites, and synchronous participation in the events of local professional societies. This best practice enhances student engagement by allowing students to flexibly apply content knowledge in a way that relates to their personal backgrounds or career interests. A virtual classroom that is student-centered and experience driven helps model how professional physical anthropologists engage in fieldwork and scholarship.

This work is supported by the American Military University and American Public University.