PB 200: Plant Life

A combined lecture and lab course, PB 200: Plant Life introduces students to the structure, processes and reproduction of higher plants, and to principles of inheritance, ecology and evolution.

With funding from a DELTA IDEA grant, Drs. Chad Jordan and James Mickle collaborated with DELTA staff to create a Distance Education (DE) version of the course. The result was a wealth of instructional tools and increased student engagement with the course material.

Instructional Challenges

In developing the DE version of the course, the team aimed at addressing a variety of instructional challenges and goals, such as:

  • Providing lab experiences for DE students that are equivalent to those in on-campus courses

  • Capturing high quality microscope images to use as samples of targeted specimens

  • Presenting the difficult concept of secondary growth in an accessible, easy-to-understand format for students

Highlights and Solutions

To meet these instructional challenges, the team developed a variety of tools and learning objects:

  • Secondary Growth Animation: A tool that provides views of the secondary growth process at the cellular, tissue, cross-section and macroscopic levels, over the course of five seasons; students can view each level individually or simultaneously.

  • Flashcard Study ToolOnline flashcards that assist students with the often highly technical course vocabulary items, including images and pronunciation guides to help students master the terminology.

  • Virtual Viewer: Forty-four microscopic slides of plant tissue specimens that allow students to compare and contrast samples side-by-side; each slide is stored in an easily updated XML database.

  • Herbarium Tour: A video shot on-site in NC State’s Herbarium, with the instructor guiding the tour and showing how specimens are preserved for research purposes and public use.

  • Online Lab Videos: Forty separate videos, covering various aspects of the broader categories “Fungi and Algae” and “Plant Specimens,” which provide a front-row seat for DE students who can watch the videos in any order and pause/repeat as needed.

Already, some instructors have incorporated the learning tools developed for the DE course into on-campus sections, and students have responded favorably to the lecture videos and animation tools. This work has led to further exploration of using animation to teach secondary growth, with the hope of including the tool in courses at other institutions.

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