Using the NSTA Learning Center as an OnlineTextbook for Teaching Science Pre-service Teachers (

Create a truly integrated and blended learning experience for your students with a customized interactive online textbook leveraging the NSTA Learning Center (NSTA LC).

What if you could select from existing interactive teacher-focused web modules on core science concepts and how to teach them, simulations of science phenomena, lesson activities, pedagogical e-chapters focused on areas such as formative assessment and how to teach difficult science concepts, and video podcasts, assembled from existing collections you can append to create an engaging and coherent suite of content–all embedded within an integrated moderated community for social learning discourse where teacher participation and sharing is moderated and tracked via an innovative point and badge system tied to individual student profiles to engage and enhance learning? What if you could document your students’ learning via pre/post assessments tightly coupled to standards-based core disciplinary concepts in the physical, life, and Earth and space sciences, and if desired, include a PDF report from a digital student portfolio of reflections and artifacts regarding the same?

Now you can with the NSTA LC (

Note: Users of the NSTA Learning Center do not have to be members of the NSTA to create an account and use the resources.

With the NSTA Learning Center (NSTA LC) as your online textbook, you and your students will be able to:
• Access over 12,000 interactive digital learning resources
• Deepen your knowledge through rich discussions coupled to selected pedagogical and subject matter content
• Motivate and affirm your students’ learning with points, badges, and class-specific leader boards that capture online student engagement and learning

As the class professor, you will be able to:
• Track your students’ activities via the instructor’s dashboard
• Customize your class landing page with your own text and university header logo
• Join in discussion with other professors who are using the NSTA LC as their online textbook

NSTA and the NSTA LC:
The mission of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning. The NSTA LC supports blended learning experiences for science educators and those who teach them. Launched in March 2008, the NSTA LC is designed to enhance and support educators’ long-term professional growth by providing them with a suite of tools, resources, and opportunities based on their unique learning needs and preferences within a professional learning community. The portal has over 170,000 active users engaged in self-directed web modules, live web seminars, and online short courses. Teachers also connect and discuss pedagogical strategies as they review, create, and share collections of digital resources. To date, users have added more than 1.5 million resources to their personal libraries. They also have uploaded more than 50,000 personal resources and created more than 8,000 public collections. The Learning Center’s web-accessible activity reports, elevation of top rated and emailed collections, coupled with badges, points, and local leader boards may assist professors in affirming the online learning efforts of their students.

While research supporting the efficacy of blended learning that leverages online components to extend onsite efforts is documented through a recent meta-analysis sponsored by the US Department of Education (2010), and strategies and models related to the same abound (Bonk, Olson, Wisher, & Orvis, 2002; Kim, Bonk, & Oh, 2008; Owston, Sinclair, & Wideman, 2008; Owston, Wideman, Murphy, & Lupshenyuk, 2008) (Seung-Won & Doo Hun, 2007) (Smith & Kurthen, 2007) (Tang & Byrne, 2007) (Verkroost, Meijerink, Lintsen, & Veen, 2008), effectively putting blended learning into practice is challenging. Current research and anecdotal observations from Learning Center deployments reveal that professors may need assistance in planning and delivering effective blended teacher learning experiences and in incorporating strategies that help recognize what happens online when teachers are face-to-face and vice versa over an extended time period (Berger, Eylon, & Bagno, 2008). Failure to do so relegates the online component to a “bolt on” appendage with potentially minimal impact in efficacy.

The Learning Center has thousands of resources that cater to different learning preferences. When teachers identify resources of interest they add them to their library alongside their own uploaded resources. Teachers may also identify personal learning goals, manage goal accomplishments, and communicate successful goal completions through dynamically generated PDF reports from the My PD Plan and Portfolio tool. Teachers are awarded badges and certificates as they complete different tasks.

The NSTA LC also provides a tool designed to help teachers identify areas of subject matter growth. The My PD Indexer is a diagnostic tool where teachers select general areas of content and answer related questions. The PD Indexer tracks results for each diagnostic assessment and recommends specific resources based on the results. These resources may be added to the teacher’s library and/or the Portfolio tool. The PD Indexer can be used as the pre- and post-assessment instrument to document knowledge gain after completing a blended learning experience that may include a SciPack (Byers, Koba, Sherman, Scheppke, & Bolus, 2011). Four independent third-party evaluations have found significant gains in teacher learning and self-efficacy when SciPacks are used as part of the teacher learning endeavors (

The latest NSTA LC innovation involved the first ideation of an integrated community forum coupled closely with a badge and recognition system that leverages “gamification” strategies to help build and stimulate meaningful online learning. The strategy includes an e-concierge team of trained online advisors who provide hours every week of live chat support to portal users and moderate the asynchronous discussion forums. The incentive system facilitates deeper and more meaningful engagement with the resources as teachers help curate the content that is shared. More than 40 badges are available to motivate teachers’ community involvement and individual learning achievements. Badge requirements suggest paths for learning and are linked to teachers’ individual profiles. These strategies seek to recognize teachers’ online efforts and provide mechanisms for rewards.

University Partnerships:
NSTA has a strong history of collaboration with institutions of higher education. Via existing Learning Center efforts, we feature online courses in collaboration with several universities. Currently, over seventy professors use the NSTA LC as their online textbook in their courses for pre-service teachers. Read below a testimonial from one of the professors:
“The Learning Center components provide consistent and accurate content for my students. It really meets my course needs. I require the students to purchase the online textbook option, read a selection of articles from a journal, build a library, participate in a web seminar, and complete an online learning session.”

The Workshop:
The “Using the NSTA Learning Center as an Online Textbook for Teaching Science Pre-service Teachers” workshop is designed for science education professors who teach methods and/or content courses to science pre-service teachers. Participants will learn how the Learning Center can be used as their class online textbook to enhance and extend pre-service teachers’ content and pedagogical knowledge, for the semester and life, since the NSTA LC accounts the students create and the resources they add, are theirs to keep forever.
Attendees will:
• Explore the NSTA Learning Center.
• Gain exposure of various strategies for integration, motivation, and recognition to increase student learning.
• Ask questions and discuss examples from different universities implementing the NSTA LC in their courses.

The workshop will consist of two parts. In the first part (~90 minutes), participants will meet and ask questions of professors who are using the NSTA Learning Center as an Online Textbook. In the second part (~30 minutes), participants will explore the portal following the presenters’ guidance.

Workshop Presenters:
Al Byers, Ph.D. is the associate executive director for services at NSTA. He helps set, implement, manage, and evaluate the strategic vision for NSTA’s high impact blended e-learning efforts.

Flavio Mendez is the senior director for the Learning Center at NSTA. He works directly with professors using the portal. Mendez is an ASTE member and a user of the NSTA LC as an online textbook at an institution of higher education.

The following professors have experience using the NSTA LC and will be available to answer questions:
• Kate Baird, Ph.D., Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus
• Meredith Houle Vaughn, Ph.D., San Diego State University
• William Veal, Ph.D., College of Charleston
• Jacqueline McDonnough, Ph.D., Virginia Commonwealth University
• Kathy Sparrow, Ph.D., Florida International University

Workshop Details:
Part I: The presenting team will provide an overview of the portal. This presentation will be followed by an informal Q&A session with professors who are using the NSTA LC with science pre-service teachers.

Part II: Participants will explore the NSTA LC with the guidance of the presenting team.

Workshop Handouts/Online Information and Cost:
Pre-service teachers receive a 1-year student membership to NSTA with their Learning Center subscription purchase. All participants receive information about NSTA and the NSTA LC. Visit: ( to learn more. There is no charge for attending this workshop. Attendance limit is determined by the total number of computers. Participants’ personal laptop computers are welcomed.