The Use of Online Citizen-Science Projects to Provide Experiential Learning Opportunities for Nonmajor Science Students †
Citizen science is becoming even more accessible to the general public through technological advances in the development of mobile applications, facilitating information dissemination and data collection. With the advent of “big data,” many citizen-science projects designed to help researchers sift through piles of research data now exist entirely online, either in the form of playing a game or via other digital avenues. Recent trends in citizen science have also focused on “crowdsourcing” solutions from the general public to help solve societal issues, often requiring nothing more than brainstorming and a computer to submit ideas. Online citizen science thus provides an excellent platform to expand the accessibility of experiential learning opportunities for a broad range of nonmajor science students at institutions with limited resources (e.g., community colleges). I created an activity for a general microbiology lecture to engage students in hands-on experiences via participation in online citizen-science projects. The objectives of the assignment were for students to: 1) understand that everyone can be a scientist; 2) learn to be creative and innovative in designing solutions to health and science challenges; and 3) further practice science communication skills with a written report. This activity is designed for introductory science courses with nonmajor science students who have limited opportunities to participate in undergraduate research experiences.
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