ASU-led online portal advances digital learning in earth and space sciences

April 13, 2022

Arizona State University’s Center for Education Through Exploration (ETX Center) has announced the launch of “Infiniscope 2.0, the next generation of a NASA-funded online platform, which is transforming learning across K–16 in the earth and space sciences.

Infiniscope develops and deploys innovative digital learning experiences that promote STEM education and creative tools that empower educators to harness education technology as they see fit.     ASU's Infiniscope project is transforming learning across K–16 in the earth and space sciences. Download Full Image

“ASU is designed to leverage technology and innovation to meet learners where they are with high-quality learning opportunities,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said. “Infiniscope 2.0 represents a new chapter in our efforts to imagine, create and disseminate world-leading technologies to educate more learners at scale.”

This project, created by experts at ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, provides inquiry-driven, AI-tutored activities designed around NASA-derived simulations and virtual field trips. It also provides a technology platform that enables educators to collaborate, create and customize their own digital learning activities in ways that are informed by what research shows is most effective. Launched in 2018, Infiniscope reaches a network of more than 4,500 educators, serving tens of thousands of learners, and is growing rapidly. 

“One of NASA’s goals in this post-pandemic world is to create opportunities for better digital learning solutions that meet the collective needs of educators, scientists and lifelong learners. The Infiniscope 2.0 collection is a stunning achievement and a joy to explore,” said Kristen Erickson, director of NASA’s Science Activation (SciAct) program.

Infiniscope 2.0 is the outcome of a multimillion-dollar investment by NASA SciAct in a technology partnership between the ETX Center and the Open Learning Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University.

“This partnership has far-reaching goals to improve STEM education by empowering educators in various ways, from serving up sophisticated digital learning experiences to providing tools and training to enable them to create their own advanced digital content that meets the needs of their students as they know best,” said President's Professor Ariel Anbar, ETX center director

“Growing the community of educators applying the insights of learning research is a core part of OLI’s mission,” said Norman Bier, director of the Open Learning Initiative. “I’m especially excited at this chance to help more science educators integrate evidence-based practices and technology into their teaching.”

The major features of the portal include a searchable and sortable virtual home, exploratory activities specifically designed to feature NASA data and subject-matter experts, adaptive feedback, personalized pathways that meet the needs of individual learners, and exploratory activities like simulations and virtual field trips that promote “learning by doing” — a hallmark of the ETX Center’s philosophy of “education through exploration.”

Science educators are enthusiastic about Infiniscope because it brings science to life.

“The Infiniscope content is rich. It contextualizes opportunities for students to problem-solve, to make sense of things, and to really figure out what’s going on,” said Craig Sipes, the STEAMStands for science, technology, engineering, arts and media. coordinator for Local District East of the Los Angeles Unified School District, one of more than 3,000 schools and districts around the country where Infiniscope is being used.

But Infiniscope is not just another internet portal. It’s the doorway to an innovative new teaching community centered on a digital platform that empowers a community of educators to collaborate, create, customize and share next-generation exploratory activities — not just to use what is already there.

This new version of Infiniscope is designed on a new foundation of open-source technology, which keeps costs low and makes it easier for educators to keep control of what they create. 

“The open-source design of Infiniscope 2.0 means that we can provide a stable platform for educators that won’t get sold or disappear,” said Jessica Swann, who is the ETX Center’s program manager for teaching communities. “Teachers are often concerned that free, high-quality digital resources won’t remain openly available. We’re directly addressing that concern.” 

The ETX Center-Open Learning Initative partnership is facilitated by Argos Education, a new company aiming to transform how technology is used for education, and by Unicon, an education software development company. Argos helped to develop, hosts and supports the new open-source technology stack.

“Argos Education is an end-to-end learning experience platform and courseware marketplace, one where educators and their collaborators can craft distinctive educational experiences and deliver them in ways that are a perfect fit for their learners,” said Curtiss Barnes, co-founder and CEO of Argos Education. “The Infiniscope educator community is a wonderful example of the kind of sharing and creativity we are fostering.”

Educators interested in learning more about Infiniscope are invited to join the community. As new features roll out in the coming months, they’ll be able to contribute their own adaptive lessons to the network, as well as enroll their students to see the different pathways they take as they move through an activity. 

“Infiniscope 1.0 taught us that there’s an untapped demand out there among the most dynamic educators,” Anbar said. “When it comes to using technology in their teaching, they don’t just want to use the sort of great experiences modern platforms can provide. They want to create great experiences as well. With Infiniscope 2.0, we’re aiming to meet that demand — and transform STEM education as we do.”

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration


Fully synchronous degree programs in social work to be offered this fall

Master's and bachelor's degree programs designed for students who want flexibility of digital learning with a virtual classroom format

April 13, 2022

Responding to the needs of social work students who seek the flexibility of online learning, this fall Arizona State University’s School of Social Work will offer new, fully synchronous online programs leading to master’s and bachelor’s degrees in the field, respectively called MSW LIVE Online and BSW LIVE Online.

BSW LIVE Online will be offered to Arizona residents with the goal of expanding the program’s geographic reach in the future. Meanwhile, MSW LIVE Online will be open to students living both inside and outside Arizona. Stock photo, laptop computer, notepad, pens, coffee, student Stock photo by Avel Chuklanov/Unsplash Download Full Image

Before the pandemic, the school had been offering in-person and asynchronous online programs toward an MSW degree, and its curriculum for a Bachelor of Social Work degree had been taught solely in person, in classrooms, said Kellie MacDonald-Evoy, a clinical assistant professor at the school and its MSW admissions coordinator.

When the BSW program was converted during the pandemic to ASU Sync, a hybrid of in-person and livestreamed video instruction, the strong positive response from students led the school to decide to offer a fully synchronous option permanently, MacDonald-Evoy said.

“We discovered students loved it,” she said. “The faculty loved teaching it, too. We determined there was a need for getting a BSW online as well.”

Now, both programs will add the fully synchronous option, via ASU Sync.

Both will be taught by the school’s full-time faculty with similar class sizes to the immersion (in-person) program, around 25 to 30 students per class, who engage in live lectures and discussions with their instructors and peers.

Students in each program will apply what they are learning in the classroom through in-person internship experience in their local areas. Each MSW LIVE Online student will complete 960 hours in internships, while each BSW LIVE Online student will complete 480 hours.

Students can pursue either degree through full-time study depending on the demands on their time in other aspects of their lives. Students who had been learning part time could accelerate to full time if they wish. They can also complete an associate degree at a local community college or transfer previously earned college credits to complete the BSW in two years. 

“We’re really excited and optimistic to bring the BSW program to Arizona students who might not be able to gain access to this in the past,” MacDonald-Evoy said. “It is a real exciting option.”

During the pandemic, School of Social Work faculty learned how to teach and learn using Zoom and other video conferencing tools, giving students the vital chance to continue their educational experiences, said Foundation Professor Elizabeth Lightfoot, director of the School of Social Work.

“For some students, video conferencing increased the accessibility of our MSW program, and they asked for an opportunity to take all of their classes live online, while keeping their field experience in person,” Lightfoot said. “We think our new LIVE online BSW and MSW programs will open up our social work curriculum to students who wanted a synchronous experience but couldn't make it to one of our four campuses in person. It's a great complement to our online and in-person options.”

MacDonald-Evoy said students from rural communities, those who are employed, who work nontraditional hours or who had child care, transportation, commuting or parking challenges were among the many undergraduates who responded favorably to being taught via the Zoom platform.

The degree program appeals to not only college students in their late teens and early 20s, but older students who may have had their collegiate studies interrupted when they were younger, MacDonald-Evoy said.

The growing presence of social workers in hospitals and other medical facilities has also drawn interest in BSW and MSW degrees from health care workers, she said.

A webpage, flyer and FAQs for the BSW LIVE Online program will be coming soon to the School of Social Work website, MacDonald-Evoy said. The website has information about the MSW LIVE Online program and an FAQ page.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions