Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Creative, online learning tool helps students tackle real-world problems

12.04.2011
Solving problems for clients in any field usually requires gathering information and creative thinking that leads to practical and inventive solutions.

A new computer interface developed at Iowa State University is helping students use what they've learned in the horticulture classroom and apply it to problems they'll face when they are on the job site.

The project, called ThinkSpace, is led by a group of ISU faculty including Ann Marie VanDerZanden, professor of horticulture and associate director of ISU's Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching.

ThinkSpace has many different features that make it an effective way to teach using ill-structured problems. This type of problem allows students to choose from multiple paths to arrive at a solution.

By contrast, well-structured problems have a straight path to the one, clear solution.

In horticulture, the ThinkSpace platform is being used for upper-level classes and requires students to access what they've learned throughout their time studying horticulture and apply it to real-world problems.

In these classes, VanDerZanden gives students computer-delivered information about residential landscape.

That information includes illustrations of the work site, descriptions of the trees on the property, explanations of the problems the homeowner is experiencing, mock audio interview files with the property owner, and about anything else a horticulture professional would discover when approaching a homeowner with a landscape problem.

Also, just like in real life, some of the information is relevant to the problem, and some information is not.

"It forces students to take this piece of information, and that piece of information, and another piece of information, and then figure out what is wrong – in this case with a plant," said VanDerZanden.

When the students think they have determined the problem, they enter their responses into the online program.

VanDerZanden can then check the responses.

For those students on the right track, she allows them to continue toward a solution.

For those who may have misdiagnosed the situation, VanDerZanden steers the students toward the right track before allowing them to move forward.

So far, the response from students has been very positive.

"The students like the variety," said VanDerZanden. "They like struggling with real-world problems, rather that something that is just made up. On the other hand, they can get frustrated because there is not a clear-cut answer."

The entire process leverages the classroom experience into something the students can use at work.

"I think this really enhances student learning," said VanDerZanden. "Students apply material from previous classes to a plausible, real-world situation. For instance students see what happens when a tree was pruned really hard to allow a piece of equipment to get into the customer's yard. As a result, the tree sends out a lot of new succulent shoots, and then there is an aphid infestation in the tree. It helps students start making all of those connections."

The ThinkSpace interface was developed from existing technologies already being used in ISU's College of Veterinary Medicine, College of Engineering and department of English.

VanDerZanden and her group recently received a $446,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Higher Education Challenge Grant program to further develop ThinkSpace so it could more useful to other academic areas and universities.

As part of this research, VanDerZanden is also working with faculty members at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; University of Wisconsin, Madison; and Kansas State University, Manhattan.

Ann Marie VanDerZanden | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.iastate.edu

More articles from Science Education:

nachricht Starting school boosts development
11.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht New Master’s programme: University of Kaiserslautern educates experts in quantum technology
15.03.2017 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern

All articles from Science Education >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Extensive Funding for Research on Chromatin, Adrenal Gland, and Cancer Therapy

28.06.2017 | Awards Funding

Predicting eruptions using satellites and math

28.06.2017 | Earth Sciences

Extremely fine measurements of motion in orbiting supermassive black holes

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>