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October 3, 2012—The dream of a widely available Energy 101 course emphasizing critical thinking and problem solving is moving closer to reality with the development of a draft model curriculum and three associated versions of an interdisciplinary Energy 101 course being readied for testing by a team led by A۰P۰L۰U.
It is just six months since A۰P۰L۰U and its partners, including the University of Maryland, Cecil Community College and Harford Community College, accepted the Department of Energy’s (DOE) challenge to develop an interdisciplinary “Energy 101” course based on energy literacy via a model curriculum and learning modules for use by 4-year and 2-year institutions across the nation.
“The Energy 101 team has given considerable thought to the core contents of a course, how it needs to be designed to enable transferability of credit, and what types of modules can enrich the students’ experience,” said Jim Turner, A۰P۰L۰U senior counsel, innovation and technology, and director, Energy Programs.
When the Energy 101 project began, DOE had recently completed a substantial effort, with a wide variety of input, to reach consensus on energy literacy standards which are embodied in, Energy Literacy: Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts for Energy Education. DOE also had developed a unique educational technology platform, National Training & Educational Resource (NTER), which is proving successful in applying 21st century technology to worker training. The challenge was to bring these tools into the educational mainstream through a model curriculum and a user community that freely shared expertise, cutting edge modules, and learning materials.
The Energy 101 project aims to make available a nationally-recognized general introduction to energy course curricula and learning modules for non-STEM and STEM majors alike. The goal is to enable students to develop an overall mental model of the complex topic of energy and the skills necessary to make decisions. Turner believes the course could be a foundation for future study or meet general science requirements and be a foundation for becoming more informed and responsible citizens.
After an analysis of a number of currently available introductory energy curricula and after mapping 16 of those curricula against the DOE’s energy literacy standards, the Energy 101 team developed a draft model Energy 101 curriculum which was circulated both to academics who had expressed interest in the project and to a broader community of energy experts associated with the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. The initial set of comments, including a variety of valuable suggestions, have been incorporated into the draft curriculum, but further enhancements to improve the draft curricula are still being sought.
“We are still making revisions and improvements in the curriculum,” Turner said. “Moreover, faculty on member campuses teaching similar courses are encouraged to share their insights and related course materials in order to be included in the development process.”
Additionally, the Energy 101 team has begun to make progress in developing potential modules to accompany the Energy 101 course material, which utilize the DOE’s NTER educational tool. NTER’s online platform applies advanced information technology and graphic capabilities which can serve as supplemental activities or "labs" for students to further illuminate energy concepts. As related learning modules are developed and approved via peer-review, these modules will be uploaded to the Energy 101 NTER site for use by all. The first modules, which should be available later this year, will use data and schematics from the University of Maryland’s winning Solar House entry from the 2011 DOE Solar Decathlon to teach a variety of energy concepts.
The University of Maryland, Cecil Community College and Harford Community College have developed pilot Energy 101 courses that will be taught in the coming semester. In addition to the Energy Literacy Principles, these courses have been created using Understanding by Design and Universal Design by Learning, the College Board’s two most important tools in redesigning their Advanced Placement programs, as well as Evidence Centered Design, a cross-cutting assessment tool as means for comparing courses and precisely determining student achievement. The team is following this methodology as a path to eventual approval of a related Advanced Placement course and for ease in achieving transferability of credit from high school to college and community college to university.
DOE has set up an Energy 101 Forum on NTER to facilitate a community of practice surrounding introduction to energy courses including the sharing of ideas, resources, and materials and for faculty, students, and interested others to post comments and questions. DOE and the Energy 101 team encourage campuses, faculty, and students, to review and comment on the draft model curriculum and become part of this exciting project.
In the coming months, the Energy 101 team will finalize a model curriculum, develop additional learning modules, and continue pursuing the next steps for expanding energy education to broader audiences.
Further information is available and updates will be posted to the APLU Energy 101 project website. To get involved, contact Jim Turner at email@example.com or Kari McCarron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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