Abstract Detail

Teaching Virtual Plant Systematics/Flora Courses

McCauley, Ross [1].

Teaching plant systematics online across the digital divide: perspectives from a Native American-Serving, Non-Tribal institution.

While transitioning a lab-intensive course online would be challenging for anyone, my teaching at a minority-majority institution which ranks first in the nation in baccalaureate STEM degrees awarded to Native Americans, I faced a unique set of challenges.  With the second half of Spring semester transferred online I needed to design a course to meet the specific circumstances of my students who returned to their homes, not only here in Colorado, but also to Tribal Lands around the nation and for whom internet connectivity might be no more than an intermittent cellphone hotspot and a limited data plan.  My course typically meets for six hours of integrated lecture/lab a week with the first part being an introduction to morphology, systematics fundamentals, and a course-based research experience. The second half surveys vascular plant diversity and introduces identification, all based on herbarium material and specimens collected the previous summer.  To maintain as equitable access as possible I designed an asynchronous course without the use of high-bandwidth resources of videos and Zoom lectures.  To teach diversity I developed a series of illustrated family-based modules highlighting diagnostic features. This information was duplicated in PowerPoint lectures as reduced-sized PDFs for fast download and offline use.  Small online quizzes with flexible due dates tested student’s comprehension and group recognition. Due to the wide geographic distribution of students, their varied access to living plants due to the time of year, and strict tribal lockdowns, I modified the identification portion of the class into a remote service-learning project. Using SEINet, which had been introduced earlier, the class collectively developed a vouchered species checklist for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in southwest Colorado.  Additionally, students participated in a discussion board where they presented photos of plants from their local area that served as a springboard for informal discussion on identification and the use of the Dynamic Key feature integrated in SEINet. This fully asynchronous format accompanied by weekly optional Zoom meetings and frequent personal emails to students who had disengaged, resulted in full course completion and final grades on-par with other semesters.  Feedback was generally positive with students saying their appreciation of plant diversity increased although some students expressed frustration due to poor internet connections.  My experience highlights that when shifting to online instruction designing a course accessible by all, providing individualized feedback, and proactive communication by the instructor ensures continued participation and success of all students.

1 - Fort Lewis College, Department Of Biology, 1000 Rim Drive, Durango, CO, 81301, United States

Teaching methodology STEM
asynchronous delivery.

Presentation Type: Colloquium Presentations
Session: COL09, Teaching Virtual Plant Systematics and Flora Courses
Location: Virtual/Virtual
Date: Tuesday, July 28th, 2020
Time: 4:15 PM
Number: COL09004
Abstract ID:444
Candidate for Awards:None

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