|Blended Learning Lab for APBI200
|Land & Food Systems
The project was focused on development of a flexible learning (FL) lab module focused on soil classification for the APBI 200 – Introduction to Soil Science course and supporting multimedia online educational resource (entitled “Forest Floor” http://forestfloor.soilweb.ca/). The FL soil lab module focused on soil identification and classification of forest floor and forest humus forms. The lab module implements a blended learning approach combining face-to-face instruction and on-line educational resources, as well as online self-guided tutorials and quizzes. The FL soil lab also involved development of a video footage and animations to support student learning.
The project combined both aspects of flexible learning (FL) – logistical and pedagogical flexibility since it allowed for flexibility of location, time and pace of learning as well as flexibility of delivery of the APBI 200 course. Soil identification and classification are important skills for a range of professionals working in natural resource management and planning. This type of knowledge is based on visual interpretation skills, which require numerous viewings of visual material (video, photos, graphs) to develop. Blended learning strategies that combine on-campus laboratory (and field) sections and online resources allow students to develop such skills more easily than the traditional campus-based teaching approaches.
The project was part of the ongoing team collaboration entitled Virtual Soil Science Learning Resources-VSSLR (http://www.soilweb.ca).
|Year 1: Project Year
|Year 1: Funding Year
|Year 1: Project Type
|Year 1: Principal Investigator
|Year 1: Funded Amount
|Year 1: Team Members
Maja Krzic, Associate Professor, Faculty of Forestry / Faculty of Land and Food Systems
|Year 1: TLEF Showcase
Products & achievements: Multimedia online educational resources, entitled “Forest Floor” (http://forestfloor.soilweb.ca/); APBI 200 lab on forest floor (https://lfs-sw.sites.olt.ubc.ca/files/2016/12/APBI200_Lab-Manual_2017_Dec1216.pdf); Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies (ACSESS) natural sciences education abstracts, entitled “Scaffolding Student Learning: Forest Floor Example” and "Blending Multimedia and Face-to-Face Teaching to Enhance Learning about the Forest Floor".
Intended outcomes/themes: Soil identification and classification are important skills for a range of professionals working in natural resource management and planning. This type of knowledge is based on visual interpretation skills, which require numerous viewings of visual material (video, photos, graphs) to develop. Blended learning strategies that combine on-campus laboratory (and field) sections and online resources allow students to develop such skills more easily than the traditional campus-based teaching approaches. The overall expected learning outcome of the Introduction to Soil Science course, offered by the Faculty of Land and Food Systems, at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Vancouver, Canada, is for students to understand physical, chemical and biological properties of soils; soil formation, classification, use and conservation.
Evaluation approach: The Forest Floor educational resource was implemented in the Introduction to Soil Science course during the 2014–2015 academic year and the 232 students enrolled in the course were asked to complete an online survey. The response rate was 34% (n = 79). As an incentive for students to complete the survey we offered the chance to win a gift card to a local coffee shop. The online survey consisted of 39 questions and its completion was done on a voluntary basis on students’ own time (i.e., not during a lecture or lab section). The survey opened one week after the forest floor activities were carried out and after students submitted their assignments. The survey remained open for seven days. It is important to note that the survey was created to assess students’ perceptions of their learning and learning experiences, rather than assessing how much they learned or comparing student learning with the blended learning approach to other teaching methods. Items were tested first for correlation. Two items, “I liked having access to the forest floor website while working on the lab assignment” and “Having access to the forest floor website while working on the lab assignment helped me to learn about the forest floor” were correlated with a correlation coefficient of 0.8, suggesting that participants responded as though the two items were very similar.
Seven focus-group discussions (each about eight minutes in duration) were conducted with student volunteers from the Introduction to Soil Science course. A total of 31 students volunteered to participate in these interviews. Comments from the interviews were taken to support interpretations of the factors arising from factor analysis and to help explain survey responses.
Findings: As part of his MSc study, Darrell Hoffman assessed student perceptions of factors underlying their opinions about the application of the blended-learning method using exploratory factor analysis of student survey responses. The Forest Floor online educational resource and campus-based activities were developed with the contributions of a team of experts in soil science, web and multimedia design, and science education. Ninety-four percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that the Forest Floor web-based resource was helpful for learning forest floor concepts, 79% that describing samples in class was essential for understanding the properties of organic horizons, and 81% that they were able to relate information in the Forest Floor webbased resource to their own samples used in an in-class activity indicating that students appreciated the blended learning methodology. Based on the survey responses five implicit factors were interpreted: (1) satisfaction with the web-based educational resources as learning enhancements; (2) success of presentation of concepts using a blended learning method; (3) student self-assessment of learning; (4) student learning preferences in accessing materials; and (5) website usability. Student feedback suggests that the blended learning activities were appreciated and met the learning objectives. This study also provides an example for conducting exploratory factor analysis of blended learning interventions and provides factors that may be verified through confirmatory factor analysis.
Sustainability: The “Forest Floor” project was part of the ongoing team collaboration entitled Virtual Soil Science Learning Resources (VSSLR), www.soilweb.ca. The VSSLR group was established in 2004 by Dr. Maja Krzic and it currently includes over 30 (and counting) members focused on developing innovative, open access educational resources for a variety of undergraduate and graduate natural resource courses and programs. Open access educational tools developed by the VSSLR have been adopted by at least 27 Canadian and 13 international postsecondary institutions, benefiting about 3,500 students each year.
Teaching at the undergraduate level should present students with an organized and engaging narrative that reiterates key concepts explained in the course textbooks. In addition, I strongly believe that all course material should be shared in an open access format that students can access whenever they need it. For example, APBI 200– Introduction to Soil Science material is posted in UBC Wiki, (http://wiki.ubc.ca/Course:APBI200), an open collaborative platform that allows sharing of material and frequent updates. In this way, students that learn best on their own and students who require more active guidance can both be well served. By mixing a variety of teaching resources that are presented both in the classroom and online, I work to create blended learning opportunities that can suit a variety of learning styles.
Broader community of soil science and natural resource educators at UBC, in Canada and around the world has been informed about this project through several dissemination presentations at national and international conferences. This project already was expanded by a follow-up project carried out in 2014-2015 that focused on development of a game-style educational quest (scavenger hunt), based on the Questogo© platform (website and mobile App), for APBI 200 – Introduction to Soil Science and FRST 201 - Forest Ecology courses.