Universities have been offering online classes since the 1990s (Volery and Lord, 2000). The ability to meet diverse educational needs and reach distant locations has supported steady growth in enrollment in these courses (De Brey et al., 2021). For example, about one-third of all undergraduate students were taking online courses before 2020 (Zimmerman, 2020). However, adoption of online education has not been even among disciplines. Online courses and academic programs in horticulture are still relatively rare. One of the reasons for this lag in adoption is that hands-on activities, laboratories, and field trips (collectively called experiential learning) are commonplace in horticulture education but their implementation in online courses is challenging. Experiential learning enhances the student experience (Lindsey, 2019; Nunez, 2020), promotes learning, and fosters skill development (Craver and Williams, 2014; Fry et al., 2021; St. Hilaire et al., 2009; Uchanski et al., 2015). Thus, the quality of horticulture courses might suffer if online education precludes or diminishes experiential learning.
While instructors in other disciplines can use predesigned activities available from commercial vendors (Alvarez, 2021), horticulture instructors must plan and administer their own remote hands-on activities. Unfortunately, there is a lack of literature to support this process. Examples of successful hands-on activities for online horticulture courses are absent from the literature. Also absent are studies that report the academic and personal impact of hands-on activities in online horticulture courses. Thus, scholarly literature that highlights successfully executed, online hands-on activities can support the adoption of experiential learning in online horticulture courses.
Here we report our experience planning and administering a remote hands-on activity using strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) growing kits as a part of an online horticulture course. We also investigated student perception of this hands-on activity using a text mining approach.
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