The modern classroom might not be a classroom at all. More and more classes are being taken online—even science classes requiring a lab. A small team of researchers including Arizona State University’s Leanna Archambault examined using laboratory activities in teaching science online and earned an international award as online innovators for their work.


Archambault, a Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College assistant professor specializing in K-12 online education, has long studied the role of technology in education – an area that is becoming increasingly important as many education institutions begin shifting content to non-traditional mediums such as the Internet. This area has become so important, in fact, that the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) has focused for the last three years on ways in which teachers and administrators are able to improve the quality and accessibility of online education.


Each year, iNACOL recognizes outstanding achievement in five different areas as part of its Online Innovator Awards, and in 2010, Archambault had the unique distinction of being part of a small team of researchers to be given the Important Research by an Individual, Team or Organization award. The team’s study “Examining the Use of Laboratory Activities in Teaching Science in an Online Environment” analyzed and evaluated the effectiveness of this strategy. Archambault and her peers who were also recognized for various achievements were hailed by the president and CEO of iNACOL, Susan Patrick, as helping pave the way for non-traditional educational methods.


The research conducted by Archambault and her team was the first of its kind to evaluate the specific practice of teaching online science classes with a laboratory component. Such research is the focus of Archambault’s studies, centered around online learning and improving student achievement through better practices. Her courses for teaching students at ASU emphasize these ideals, and Archambault incorporates her knowledge of technology and education to encourage educators to utilize these tools to promote student learning.

An interesting trend she has noticed in her own classroom is a contrast to the myth concerning technology use being related to generations in terms of a willingness to adopt online teaching methods.“I have seen this in my classes as a number of non-traditional students are interested in getting into the field of online teaching. I’ve also witnessed how young teachers, considered to be “digital natives, ” use technology in their personal lives, but are ill-equipped for the challenges of the 21st century classroom,” Archambault notes the disparity between being able to use technology for one’s own productivity versus implementing it “to leverage its affordances for teaching content to students.”


In addition to teaching a variety of courses at ASU, Archambault is also currently conducting research on field experience placements in virtual school environments and editing a book on mentoring teachers in K-12 online teaching positions. Archambault emphasizes that online learning is not for everyone, and while some students benefit from the “inherent flexibility” and ability to move through curriculum at one’s own desired pace, others struggle with its format. This opens the door for many misunderstandings, which have created some resistance to expanding online educational opportunities.


Story by Lauren Proper
Jenni Thomas,
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College