Saturday, 15 July 2006

Soils in Distance Education Programs - an Essential Science Online.

Ronald J. Reuter, Oregon State Univ, 2600 NW College Way, Bend, OR 97701 and Carol Bronick, Oregon State University, 1824 Sandpiper Lane, Carrollton, TX 75001.

Traditionally, teaching soil science, especially with a lab component, has been a face-to-face event. Several universities in the US now offer a distance natural resources related degree, yet few have developed distance soils courses. Soil science is arguably an essential part of a complete natural resource education. Web-based courses present new challenges to traditional course development concepts. Students tend to be highly diverse in terms of academic background, geographic locale and course expectations. Non-degree seeking professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds take courses to meet their specific goals. Traditional teaching methods must be enhanced by alternative methods. Our traditional perspective of teaching is being challenged by new visions for global outreach. To this end, Oregon State University has developed a lab-based introductory soils course and course in world soil resources with a lab component to support its Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences distance degree programs. Students complete labs that range from hand and mechanical texturing to analysis of soil nitrogen and carbon contents, often using household equipment. The courses have served hundreds of students and always have a waiting list. Almost every US state and more than five countries has been represented by students in the class. Soil science is being taken to people in their homes, globally. We will present the challenges of teaching lab courses online, discuss student participation and review methods of assessing student achievement.

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