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Nov. 3, 2020

Optimizing remote field experiences for forestry students

Students and faculty in the Department of Forestry at MSU share their experiences adapting to an online setting from a traditionally outdoor-focused program.

When President Samuel Stanley Jr. made the official announcement on Aug. 18 that undergraduate classes for the fall 2020 semester would be transitioned to remote learning, Department of Forestry faculty had to act fast.

Professors Dave MacFarlane and David Rothstein already had some experience creating a field experience remotely. Over the summer 2020, Rothstein and MacFarlane taught the Forestry Field Studies course, which is conducted almost exclusively outdoors and typically in an intensive and continuous two-week, field-based session. 

In lieu of in-person instruction, field kits containing all relevant tools and equipment were mailed to each student. Students received instructions via D2L — an online learning management system available to all MSU students and faculty. Instructors recorded field lectures and demonstrations on their phones that were identical to what would have been in-person instruction. Meetings, presentations, online lectures and discussions were held via Zoom.

Students selected a local forest stand close to them, wherever they were, that they were able to access easily and safely for their individual projects.

Forestry student Ethan Emick, now graduated, said, “I found [the course] quite fun, collecting and analyzing my own data for a forest of my choosing.”

Read the full story on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources website.

By: Lauren Noel

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