loading page

Engaging online students by activating ecological knowledge
  • +4
  • Stacy Hines,
  • Anthony Vedral,
  • Amanda Jefferson,
  • J Drymon,
  • Mark Woodrey,
  • Sarah Mabey,
  • Eric Sparks
Stacy Hines
Mississippi State University

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Anthony Vedral
Mississippi State University
Author Profile
Amanda Jefferson
Mississippi State University
Author Profile
J Drymon
Mississippi State University
Author Profile
Mark Woodrey
Mississippi State University
Author Profile
Sarah Mabey
Hiram College
Author Profile
Eric Sparks
Mississippi State University
Author Profile


The current COVID-19 pandemic has forced the global higher education community to rapidly adapt to partially- or fully-online course offerings. For field- or lab-based courses in ecological curricula, this presents unique challenges. Fortunately, a diverse set of active learning techniques exist, and these techniques translate well to online settings. However, limited guidance and resources exist for developing, implementing, and evaluating active learning assignments that fulfil specific objectives of ecology-focused courses. To address these informational gaps, we (1) identify broad learning objectives across a variety of ecology-focused courses, (2) provide examples, based on our collective online teaching experience, of active learning activities that are relevant to the identified ecological learning goals, and (3) provide guidelines for successful implementation of active learning assignments in online courses. Using The Wildlife Society’s list of online higher education ecology-focused courses as a guide, we obtained syllabi from 45 ecology-focused courses, comprising a total of 321 course-specific learning objectives. We classified all course-specific learning objectives into at least one of five categories: (1) Identification, (2) Application of Concepts/Hypotheses/Theories, (3) Management of Natural Resources, (4) Development of Professional Skills, or (5) Evaluation of Concepts/Practices. We then provided two examples of active learning activities for each of the five categories, along with guidance on their implementation in online settings. We suggest that, when based on sound pedagogy, active learning techniques can enhance the online student’s experience by activating ecological knowledge; moreover, active learning techniques should also be incorporated into in-person offerings once the current COVID-19 crisis has abated.
29 Jun 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
30 Jun 2020Submission Checks Completed
30 Jun 2020Assigned to Editor
03 Jul 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
06 Jul 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
07 Jul 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
22 Jul 20201st Revision Received
23 Jul 2020Submission Checks Completed
23 Jul 2020Assigned to Editor
23 Jul 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
10 Aug 2020Editorial Decision: Accept
Sep 2020Published in Ecology and Evolution. 10.1002/ece3.6739