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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Earth’s Biggest Challenges? Ohio State Students to Share Findings Tuesday

Nov. 22, 2015
This article was originally published on the website of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and was written by Molly Bean.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — About 700 students will display science posters about Earth’s biggest challenges at the 2015 Environmental Science Student Symposium at The Ohio State University.
The event goes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 24, in Ohio State’s Ohio Union Performance Hall, 1739 N. High St., in Columbus. Admission is free and open to the public.
This year marks the fourth year that Ohio State students enrolled in ENR 2100, an introductory environmental science course offered by the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR), will present posters on their final projects. Click here for this year's program. The projects cover pressing topics such as desertification, biodiversity, water quality, fossil fuels and more. The course attracts a wide range of students, with nearly every major at the university represented in the course.

Course is co-taught by brothers

Brian Lower, associate professor in SENR, and his brother, Steven Lower, a professor who has joint appointments in SENR and the School of Earth Sciences, have co-taught the course since 2012 and have been innovating along the way.
“It’s always exciting to see how students learn more about a particular topic,” Brian Lower said. “When the students start their poster, they generally have a broad view of their topic, and by reading about the research that has been conducted they come to the realization that their topic is very complex and that having a thorough understanding is crucial to coming up with a potential solution.”
Peer review is an important part of the symposium. Each student evaluates three other students’ posters in the same way scientists review other scientists’ work. 
“Students learn that the peer review process is an integral part of the scientific process that enables scientists to maintain high standards of quality and provide credibility to research,” Lower said. “Peer reviews also teach students how to become better writers and speakers by focusing their attention on particular details and considering the input of an actual audience.”

Innovative peer review system

To facilitate and manage the reviews, Lower received an Impact Grant from Ohio State’s Office of Distance Education and eLearning to build a poster application. The app was piloted at last year’s symposium. Called OSU Alpha, it allows students to conduct in-the-moment peer reviews using their personal devices, such as smart phones. The system provides anonymous feedback in real or delayed time with a click of a button.



“The system has reduced instructor time on the review by 80 percent by automating such tasks as assigning reviews, collecting reviews, summarizing reviews into one file and releasing reviews to students,” Lower said.
Some 97 percent of the students who have used the app prefer it to paper and pen, he said.
Complete details on the event, including a list of the student presenters, posters and session times, are at
Source: Brian Lower
November 2015.