Part of the 4TU.Federation
4TU.
Centre for
Engineering Education

Project introduction and background information

The course 'CSA-10306 Cropping systems and knowledge of crops' teaches basic knowledge on crops and cropping systems of the world. It is taught to first-year BPW students and first-year BIL students. Crop collections are available in a demonstration garden and two tropical glasshouses, and additional plant material is raised. The course is a well-appreciated course with a long-standing history and a sound scientific basis. Though, the course faces some challenges for which this innovation project is started:

  1. The course is (time-wise) extremely demanding for teachers and we foresee a shortage of knowledgeable staff in the very near future. To deal with this we need a flexible and robust set-up of the course in which (new or additional) teachers can participate when student numbers or other circumstances call for this.
  2. The course is increasingly regarded as intensive by students. To relieve stress we want to facilitate individual learning by structuring lectures and tutorials into more flexible modules with sub units including digital material like knowledge clips, which allows studying outside the classroom. We will change the case part to make it more personal, more enjoyable, more effective and in the perception of the students less demanding.
  3. Especially during the crop practicals, the increased student number causes several types of constraints on the quality of the education. This calls for restructuring of the practicals by: making the assignments more interactive (e.g., using video clips and QR-codes where appropriate to explain key terms and identify plant parts); challenging students to discover important aspects of plant recognition by themselves; creating opportunities to practise using pop-up quizzes, Feedback Fruits, self-tests on BlackBoard; and locating part of the assignments in the crops garden and tropical greenhouse instead of in the practical room.
  4. The course will be taught in English from the academic year 2018/2019 onwards. This language change creates the opportunity of using the course or its (sub) modules in those other parts of the education ecosystem in which basic knowledge on crops and crop production is highly desired. However, switching from Dutch to English will also increase the diversity of students and make the course more demanding, especially given the very specific English jargon and terminology. Both issues will benefit greatly from more flexible ways in which (parts of) the course can be studied (e.g. by video material on introductions and important concepts and methods).

Objective and expected outcomes

In this project, we aim at a course with clearer course modules and subunits, attractive for students and teachers, robust to changes in students and teachers, doable and flexible, and with modules and/or units that can be used in other parts of the education ecosystem of Wageningen University for education on crops and cropping systems.

The deliverables at the end of the innovation project will be:

  1. a new structure of the course modules;
  2. new tools and assignments to relieve teachers (video clips, QR code-linked information, pop-up quizzes, selftests, peer review) and logistics (assignments in crop garden and glasshouse);
  3. teachers’ protocols and background material to facilitate new teachers;
  4. new digital material to facilitate individual learning by students.

Recommendations

We are open to sharing our ideas and experiences with all teachers. For more information, experiences and recommendations, please contact Willemien Lommen.