Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Student Perceptions and Performance of an Online Tool Introducing the Concepts of Plant Breeding1

Academic journal article NACTA Journal

Student Perceptions and Performance of an Online Tool Introducing the Concepts of Plant Breeding1

Article excerpt

Abstract

There is a need to develop multimedia tools that can be incorporated into curricula to introduce the basics of plant breeding as a method to recruit and to encourage students to pursue plant breeding programs. To fill this need, we developed an online module that permitted the understanding of the basic techniques and concepts of plant breeding. The design of this study was pre-test and post-test descriptive and comparative, which involved the use of general knowledge instrument to gather pretest and post-test data for measuring differences resulting from a treatment, which was the introduction of a "Plant breeding" module. In addition, student perception questions were collected. The target population consisted of all undergraduate students (N=133) enrolled in the College of Agriculture at Purdue University during the Fall and Spring semesters of 2010, as well as, the Spring semester of 2011. Students' post-test knowledge scores were slightly lower than pre-test scores, even though the percent change was minimal. We found that this module was a beneficial tool for student-learning and recommended it to be used by faculty to simulate an authentic hands-on learning experience.

Key words: corn, online-module, plant breeding, sorghum, student-learning, STEM

Introduction

Developing well-designed learning materials improves both teaching and learning in an online environment (Capri and Mikhailova, 2003). As Stemler (1997) indicated, learning with multimedia "becomes active, not passive and it ensures that users are doing, not simply watching ." Thus, creating well-designed online modules that includes the previous authors' research is critical. Elliot (2007) provided an overview of how authentic learning can transform both student and teachers' success.

The practice of plant breeding is one of the oldest disciplines in the world that has been applied with the goal to feed the human population (Kingsbury, 2009). This area of science is indispensable for the growing population with the environmental challenges that the world will face in the future years. Growing populations, urbanization and environmental factors like climate are affecting food security. This entire scenario has surfaced as we approached approximately a billion of the world's population living in hunger (FAO, 2010). The need to expose new generations (post-secondary students) to the plant breeding discipline is essential to achieve future demand of food products, mainly in the plant science field (Wolinsky, 2010a). Based on Wolinsky (2010b), as the science has been reaching new accomplishments at molecular levels, genome sequencing and structure, the amount of students interested in plant breeding at the graduate school level has been decreasing. In addition, there is a need to encourage urban (non-agricultural background) students to be interested in this field of study that normally is unfamiliar for them since they are not exposed to agricultural careers. Moreover, the disciplines that consist mainly of laboratory bench work and computer analysis are usually more attractive to students compared to the plant breeding programs, which involves intense fieldwork (Wolinsky, 2010b).

The number of students pursuing a plant breeding career at a higher education level is decreasing; especially at the master and doctoral degrees levels, while the world-wide demand for professionals in this career has increased (Bliss, 2007; Guner and Wehner, 2003; Morris et al., 2006; Gepts and Hancock, 2006; Repinski et al., 2011; Wolinsky, 2010b). Organizations such as the Crop Science Society of America have started mentoring programs such as the "Golden Opportunity Scholars" program to help recruit undergraduate students into the Crop Science disciplines, particularly those that might be interested in plant breeding (CSA, 2012). A normal classroom sometimes can fail to bring a broad scenario of field techniques and skills into the classroom because of lack of funding, expertise or even the season in which the course is taught. …

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