Teaching introductory soil science before, during, and “after” the COVID-19 pandemic

Shams R. Rahmani, Michael L. Mashtare, Darrell G. Schulze, James J. Camberato, Cliff T. Johnston, Sherry S. Fulk-Bringman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Beginning abruptly in the second half of the Spring 2020 semester at Purdue University, we modified our teaching approach in Introductory Soil Science and Forest Soils courses (AGRY 255/270) with a combined annual enrollment of ∼370 students to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. In that semester, we went to entirely virtual lecture, lab, and discussion sessions with limited instructor-to-student interaction to reduce the spread of COVID-19. From Fall 2020 to Spring 2022, we re-instituted many of our pre-COVID-19 practices, with some COVID-19 modifications, as we adjusted to the new normal. These modifications included (1) an introductory video released at the start of the semester to explain the course structure and expectations for students who begin the semester ill or in quarantine and could not attend the first lecture in-person or live virtual, (2) lectures and exam reviews delivered in multiple formats (i.e., in-person, live over Zoom, and recorded/pre-recorded) to increase student access to these materials throughout the semester, (3) allowing early access to weekly online lab materials at the completion of the previous week (instead of after the next week's lecture) to allow students 3 more days to complete the online portion of the lab, and (4) creating digital versions (photographs and videos) of the hands-on lab materials and virtual field trips for students in quarantine or with excused absences. When activities were primarily virtual, we found email reminders were needed to make sure that students stayed on task and met course deadlines. Adjustments necessary during the early days of the pandemic that were not continued include (1) an assigned and supervised 1-h lab time (rather than unscheduled and self-guided student access to the lab) and (2) online live exams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20099
JournalNatural Sciences Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Education
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science
  • Insect Science

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