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Lake Land College instructors contribute to field of knowledge with faculty research projects

Two Lake Land College faculty members are stepping outside of the classroom and conducting very distinct and interesting research projects in order to add to the body of academic knowledge surrounding their fields of study. 

Stephanie Medley-Rath, sociology instructor, is conducting a sociological study called “Reducing the Financial Burden of College – Are Open Educational Resources a Viable Option?” For this project, she is conducting a quasi-experiment on four of her introductory-level sociology classes to determine the value of Open Educational Resources (OERs), which are free, online books and materials. 

“OERs are gaining a lot of popularity right now in the academic environment,” said Medley-Rath. “I’m interested to see if they do in fact increase access to education for those students who might not be able to afford traditional textbooks.” 

Medley-Rath will evaluate how 120 students use traditional textbooks versus OERs in both online and face-to-face classes. As part of the research, students in her classes will use tablet devises in order to access OERs. This research is funded in part by two grants Medley-Rath received – one from the American Sociological Association’s Carla B. Howery Teaching Enhancement Fund and another from the Illinois Community College Faculty Association. 

“Conducting research is a part of my identity as a sociologist and I think using research to inform my teaching makes me a better teacher,” she said. 

Likewise, as part of a research project centering on sustainability and ecology, Joe Tillman, renewable energy instructor, is leading a team of student researchers to build an experimental hydroponic garden on the Lake Land College pond. 

“The widespread use of agricultural chemicals in rainwater runoff contributes to algae growth in many Midwestern lakes and ponds during the summer months,” explained Tillman. “This algae growth greatly reduces the water oxygen levels and can lead to large fish kills and other ecological damage.” 

The purpose of this research project is to develop a floating garden that will draw nutrients from the pond water to grow useful and/or edible plants like broccoli or cauliflower. These hydroponic plants will utilize the nutrients from agricultural runoff for their growth, thus competing with the algae and minimizing its growth while improving water quality in the pond. It is believed that this method of aquaculture might be a natural and beneficial solution to algae growth. 

Renewable energy student, Josh Amacher of Charleston and biological sciences student Allyson Callaway, also of Charleston will assist Tillman with the project. 

“I’m very excited Josh approached me about this project,” said Tillman. “We have the resources and skills to add something to the body of scientific knowledge and we’re going to do just that.”  

Tillman also received funding from the Illinois Community College Faculty Association to help conduct this research project. 

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