Land-grant institutions throughout the US face declining resources in general. Particularly reduced is institutional ability to offer core graduate and upper level undergraduate courses in production agriculture and agricultural science. For example, while North Carolina (NC) State University is still able to offer a wide range of upper-division production courses in Horticulture, many sister institutions are facing restrictions on offerings in Fruit and Vegetable Production and Floriculture courses. New areas such as Sustainable Agriculture and Organic Farming also justify course offerings but few resources exist to create and teach such courses. At NC State, distance education (DE) is able to begin overcoming these problems in several ways. First, high demand, low-seat-available classes such as Postharvest Physiology can offer additional enrollment for credit if open to DE students. Second, courses offered asynchronously or with alternative delivery strategies (such as the videotapes distributed in this course) students having course/time conflicts in a semester can enroll simultaneously in two campus time-conflicted courses, completing both successfully. The framework for the Postharvest course now being taught via DE and how it came to gain institutional support will be discussed in this paper.
Douglas C. Sanders, Dennis J. Osborne, and Luz Reyes
D.L. Auld, M.J. Cepica, and C.B. McKenney
Distance education is an area of rapid expansion in higher education today. Unfortunately, the development of distance education efforts, like all new programming, is fraught with numerous barriers. Frequently, technological advances precede internal policies necessary to support these activities, and because of the nature of distance education, concerns over expense, workload, intellectual property, conflict of interest and teaching methodology may impede progress. Funding distance education efforts also requires long-term vision and commitment. It is essential that a clear vision, including identification of existing needs and benefits, be developed before equipment and personnel are secured. Finally, some distance education efforts by their nature involve collaboration between other institutions of higher education. These schools may view participation in these programs as opportunities for their advancement or possible encroachment on their educational market. Establishing strong relationships is essential for ultimate success. At Texas Tech Univ., the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources along with the Dept. of Plant and Soil Science have committed to the development and implementation of distance education as an educational tool providing enrichment and access to high-quality programming for its on campus and place-bound students. Some of the success stories as well as the frustrations behind these efforts will be discussed.
Douglas C. Sanders and Dennis J. Osborne
Many potential students, because of distance from the University campus and/or job requirements, cannot take traditional courses on-campus. This group of learners is place-bound—a group of learners who may be employed full-time, most-likely married with job responsibilities and/or other situations demanding most of their attention. These persons are the very definition of nontraditional, and their educational needs demand non-traditional pedagogy. Their maturity and self-directedness eliminate many concerns often voiced about extending support and evaluation inherent in maintaining quality for and among students adopting Distance Education (DE). In North Carolina, the audience is large and demands that the University reach out to them. Cooperative Extension's more than 120 Horticultural Crops Extension Agents (field faculty) and over 300 other field faculty whose interests include horticultural topics constitute students identifiable as likely enrollments for credit taking hours off-campus. Distance Education can overcome these problems in several ways. First, high demand, low-seat-available classes can offer additional enrollment for credit if open to Distance students. Second, courses can be offered asynchronously or with alternative delivery. Finally, courses offered collaboratively among institutions generate a level of interest and enthusiasm that may not exist for home-grown courses. Such efforts as these are creating a Distance Education program in NCSU's Horticultural Science Department.
Douglas C. Sanders, Dennis J. Osborne, Mary M. Peet, John M. Dole, and Julia L. Kornegay
Many potential students, because of distance from the university campus and/or job requirements, cannot take traditional courses on-campus. This group of learners is “place-bound”—a group of learners who may be employed full-time, most likely married with job responsibilities and/or other situations demanding most of their attention. The Horticultural Science Department and Graduate School at N.C. State University are addressing place-bound limitations in several ways, including the creation and offering of a Graduate Certificate Program in Horticultural Science via distance education (DE). By using DE, high demand, low-seat-available classes can offer additional enrollment for credit. Second, courses can be offered asynchronously or with alternative delivery methods. Also, courses offered collaboratively among institutions can generate a level of interest and enthusiasm that may not exist for “home-grown” courses. Such efforts as these promise to help meet continuing education demands of “non-traditional” students. These include Cooperative Extension's more than 120 Horticultural Crops Extension Agents (“field faculty”) and over 300 other field faculty whose interests include horticultural topics.
Roger Kjelgren and Larry Rupp
In 1992 and 1993, we taught the course “Landscape Management in the Interior West” by satellite in four states in the mountain west. The broadcast originated from an on-campus studio without students present, but with a two-way audio link. About one-third of the students viewed the course for credit and were located both on and off campus, while the remainder were not on campus and took the course for personal knowledge. In 1992, the course was broadcast live, but in 1993 it was restructured in a modular format and videotaped before broadcast. In 1994, videotapes from the previous year were used to offer the course on a semi-independent study basis on the Utah State Univ. campus. Videotaping the course in discrete content modules substantially improved the quality of the course by eliminating production problems and creating better content flow. The videotapes in turn provided a readily usable off-the-shelf course. Student response, however, varied with location and degree of involvement. On-campus students were critical of a perceived lack of face-to-face contact with faculty. Positive responses came from viewers in remote locations where access to college-level courses is otherwise limited. Distance education through studio-produced, videotaped lectures provides a visually engaging format that is easily disseminated. Such courses will less likely succeed on client campuses, however, unless there is an onsite individual mediating between the tapes and students.
At the University of Georgia, HORT 3020 (Introduction to Fruit Crops) is a two-credit survey of the botanical characteristics, taxonomy, and production practices of the world's major fruit crops. It is offered via traditional classroom instruction, and as a distance education (DE) course through the University System of Georgia Independent Study program. The DE version of the course is designed to be identical in content, final exam, and grading scale. However, due to the nature of independent study, the end-of-topic evaluations are open-book, written assignments in the DE course, whereas students in the classroom version have closed-book quizzes at the end of each topic. Student performance in the two versions of the course was compared over a 3-year period (May 1998 to May 2001) by analyzing scores on end-of-topic evaluations, final exams, and overall course grades. Students in the DE version had higher scores on end-of-topic evaluations in all 3 years, higher scores on a comprehensive final exam in 2 of 3 years, and consequently higher overall course grades than classroom students in all 3 years. Better performance of DE over classroom students may have been related to 1) qualitative differences in end-of-topic evaluations (written assignments versus quizzes), 2) differences in student demographics (nontraditional students in DE, traditional undergraduates in classroom), 3) the elective (DE) versus required (classroom) nature of the courses, or 4) differences in course duration (1 year for DE, 15 weeks for classroom). Equal or better performance of DE students suggests that survey courses such as Introduction to Fruit Crops can be offered via distance education without compromising learning outcomes.
J. David Martsolf
In Spring 1994, a 2-h course in Agricultural Meteorology was handled primarily by e-mail. Six off-campus students asked to take the course by e-mail, and two on-campus students voted to join them. Seven students communicated with each other and the instructor via VAX-mail on the UF IFAS Computer Network [ICON]. The remaining student used a NASA supplied link to Internet. A few students used V-mail on ICON's VAX, in preference to the basic MAIL facility. A good textbook was found indispensable because the rest of the course content flowed through the network. The conversational characteristic of e-mail messages accommodated questions about the text and a term paper topic well. There is a tradeoff of commuting costs vs. computer and modem costs. Each participant worked at an individual—an advantage for students who have production responsibilities. Those students ranked the course as highly desirable [compared with the average for other courses in the department 1.33 vs. 1.39 (where 1 is top score and 5 lowest)]. Procrastination is a hazard, and the keyboard is a limiting factor. Both the preparation for and conduction of the course is more time consuming than conventional methods. This time requirement is expected to decrease with familiarity, the use of graphics, and commercial links to Internet.
Technology allows educators to convey information more flexibly and visually. How to access and make use of technological teaching tools is the challenge facing educators. HortBase provides the framework for educators to create and access educational chunks. How to make use of the information in HortBase in distance teaching is a three-step process. 1) Before assembling the teaching material, the educator must decide on who the target audience is and what information to convey. Audiences on campus have higher expectations of how they learn, as they are used to live teaching and guidance, and often do not have a clear idea of what they want to learn. Off-campus audiences have lower expectations and are more focused on the information they want. 2) The educator then decides how much of the information to convert into digital form individually and how much to draw from elsewhere. Pieces of digitized information can be created by scanning existing images into the computer or created on computer with authoring-illustrating programs. Once digitized, images can be manipulated to get the desired look. This is a very time-consuming step, so much effort can be saved by taking created “chunks” from HortBase. 3) Finally, what medium and tools to use must be decided. Course content can be presented with slide-show software that incorporates digitized slides, drawings, animations, and video footage with text. Lectures can then be output to videotape or broadcast over an analog rework. Alternatively, the digitized information can be incorporated into interactive packages for CD-ROM or the World Wide Web.
Sandra B. Wilson and Luke Flory
cultivar. With the onset of distance education technologies, new approaches can be used to help identify plants by family. These online innovations not only serve to reinforce important subject knowledge but help meet a critical need when shifting from