AGNR Awarded 11 Teaching Innovation Grants from the UMD Provost’s Office

Grants will enhance and adapt the learning experience during COVID-19

Image Credit: Chris Montgomery

September 16, 2020 Samantha Watters

With students returning to campus this week, many are wondering what the campus experience is going to look like during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a preview of what’s to come in this blended course environment, the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources (AGNR) is proud to announce that our professors and lecturers received 11 Teaching Innovation Grant Awards from the University of Maryland’s Office of the Provost designed to develop creative instructional techniques for Fall 2020 classes.

“We are extremely proud of the effort and dedication of those that received grants and all who submitted applications,” says Joe Sullivan, associate dean of academic programs at AGNR. “This demonstrates the commitment of our faculty to continuing excellence in instruction during this pandemic. The college is excited to launch these innovative teaching enhancements this semester and to provide a unique college experience both now and in future semesters.”

Here’s a quick look at these innovative course updates:

ANSC101 Principles of Animal Science
Sarah Balcom, senior lecturer in Animal & Avian Sciences, is working through the Education Abroad office to redesign this course with a four-session global classroom experience with students in Perugia. Students will collectively look at labor in agriculture and some of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on this issue, particularly in animal agriculture. This class will capitalize on the opportunities to make cross-cultural comparisons and connections, learning from other cultures throughout COVID-19 to gain a better understanding of challenges locally and abroad. While the COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique challenge of its own to the agricultural sector, this global classroom component will remain a part of the course for future semesters beyond the pandemic.

ANSC446/447 Physiology of Mammalian Reproduction
Monica VanKlompenberg, lecturer in Animal & Avian Sciences, is taking this lecture and laboratory course from an in-person course to an online, interactive student-centered course. Students will have the opportunity to work in teams to create Guides to Reproduction for specific species using a Wiki-like platform, as well as activities including an online escape room to allow students to delve deeper into the material while enhancing their critical thinking skills. Another lecturer in the department, Megan McLean, is converting the laboratory experience from an in-person experience to an interactive online experience, engaging students with simulators, digital cell and tissue samples, scientific literature, and developing plans for managing reproduction at the farm and laboratory levels.

Collaboration Across Landscape Architecture Design and Graphics Communication Studios
Naomi Sachs, assistant professor in Plant Science & Landscape Architecture, is collaborating with Byoung-Suk Kweon, associate professor, and James Westwater, lecturer, to bring together four separate landscape architecture studio courses across undergraduate and graduate students to complete an entry for a major landscape architecture design competition. By bringing together students from LARC748 Advanced Special Topics Studio, LARC640 Graduate Studio I, LARC620 Graphic Tools for Landscape Representation, and LARC489R Special Topics in Landscape Architecture, students will be empowered to share their diverse design and graphics expertise to create a collaborative entry in a prominent design competition while experiencing a blended course design equipped for remote instruction and site visits.

PLSC125 Feeding Ten Billion by 2050: Food Security and Crop Protection
Shunyuan Xiao and James Culver, professors in Plant Science & Landscape Architecture, are updating this popular course taken by students across all colleges and schools at UMD to not only adapt to the pandemic, but to become a model for effective and creative use of educational technologies to enhance student engagement. The course is designed to enhance critical and creative thinking about possible solutions to food security and global hunger, particularly from a crop production perspective. They will specifically be offering online and recorded lectures, using online clickers and quizzes to stimulate student engagement, and investing in catchbox microphones with antiviral coating to allow for distancing during in-person class debates. They will also be recording and sharing every step of an experimental project growing a new Sweet100 genetically-modified tomato plant to showcase the power of biotechnology, CRISPR genome editing, and precision breeding.

NFSC350 Food Service Operations
Margaret Udahogora, lecturer in Nutrition & Food Science, is updating this class for the Dietetics Program. Since the commercial kitchen space normally used for this classroom experience can’t be used during the pandemic, additional projects will be added and new technology will be incorporated to allow students to get the full experience of selecting recipes and creating menus, estimating food costs, and planning food production without being able to actually prepare meals. Students will be able to perform an online food demo and present their findings with new technology, while also spending more time interacting with international collaborators virtually to learn about international cuisine. Students will also work in teams to understand the nutritional needs of a community of interest and develop an educational video to empower their audience to make healthy choices.

INAG110 Oral Communication
Heather McHale, senior lecturer at the Institute for Applied Agriculture, is taking this popular course offering 1500 seats per year to an online format to not only address pandemic concerns, but to make it more readily available across the university. Working with experts on student engagement in online courses, McHale is ensuring that the online experience is optimized to measure student performance in oral communication and public speaking, giving students a mastery of the skills needed to manage audience response and visual aids during virtual presentations. Additional video content will also be developed to supplement course material and provide resources for future semesters.

Combining Online Instruction with Peer Education
Melissa Leiden Welsh and Diana Renae Cochran, assistant clinical professors in Plant Science & Landscape Architecture, are collaborating to develop online content for multiple courses to meet asynchronously throughout the semester, while maintaining student group project and team coordination. Similar to a train-the-trainer model that is used in Extension outreach, students will engage in cooperative peer learning to leverage knowledge on education and horticulture, teaching and recording online content themselves through virtual lessons. Courses include PLSC489L Scientists Teaching and Translating Science, TLPL678 IH65 Professional Seminar in Agricultural and Extension Education, TLPL689 CE10 Teaching Internship in Agriculture, and PLSC433 Technology of Fruit and Vegetable Production.

NFSC498T Advanced Food Processing and Safety
Rohan Tikekar, associate professor in Nutrition & Food Science, is moving this class in a live virtual format, not only due to pandemic restrictions, but to expand its audience-base across the state and beyond. This course is additionally offered as a 2.5 day workshop twice a year through University of Maryland Extension (UME), co-taught by senior UME agent Shauna Henley. Designed to train food science students and industry professionals alike in recognizing food safety risks in processing plants and how to reduce them, the course will move to a virtual format using breakout sessions and groups to ensure student engagement, accountability, and feedback in an online environment. 

ENST360 Ecosystem Ecology
Mitch Pavao-Zuckerman, assistant professor in Environmental Science & Technology, is taking this hands-on course virtual using lab simulation software. Using SimBio, the new virtual course will feature several virtual lab modules and a few data analysis and simulation activities using publicly available data from the National Science Foundation’s ecology programs. Since field work is an important part of any ecology course, this virtual simulation software approach will allow for class engagement while spanning topics from physiology to ecology at the community, ecosystem, and global level.

AREC365 World Hunger, Population, and Food Supplies
Ken Leonard, associate professor in Agricultural & Resource Economics, is developing online and hybrid versions of this lecture-based course that enrolls about 300 students each semester. To manage discussions for this diverse course, lectures will be substantially shortened to give an overview of the material, with most lecture material offered asynchronously. During synchronous sessions, the class will be divided into three cohorts of students to meet for discussion once per week. Within each cohort, students will be further divided into teams to produce theme-based study guides and lead discussion panels for the class.

PLSC101 Introductory Crop Science
Bill Phillips, assistant clinical professor in Plant Science & Landscape Architecture, is restructuring this foundational course for the Agricultural Science and Technology - Agronomy students to allow for increases in student enrollment and to break the class into both a lecture and laboratory class in the future. Changes incorporated this fall to help with the redesign of the course for future semesters include the development of regular quizzes and assessments to help students keep pace in a blended learning environment, the redesign of the course website to include laboratory research reports and video content, an updated syllabus, and recorded lectures.