PLSC 234: Weed Control in Organic Agriculture


This course received the 2013 CAUCE Program Award in the Credit Programming Under 48 Hours category.


This partnership with the Department of Agriculture & Bio Resources provided an opportunity to blend cohorts of credit level students from the Undergraduate Agriculture program with Certificate students from our Plant and Horticulture Certificate (PHC) here at the Centre for Continuing and Distance Education (CCDE). The design called for a large amount of interactions between students as they collaboratively built pages of content together in a class wiki and participated in online discussions. The professional food producers registered as certificate students in PHC were able to apply real world knowledge to many of the topics covered in class. The undergraduate level students, in turn, had the most up-to-date research on the tips of their brains. Together, they were able to construct a shared resource of knowledge that both satisfied their personal learning interests and helped them achieve the learning objectives for the course.

The Bones:

The course was built on the backbone of Blackboard Learn 9 (the supported LMS at the U of S). Tools such as the discussion forums, assignment drop boxes, self-assessment quizzes, the grade centre, and the chat and email tools were utilized beyond the usual Learning Modules. From here we added a wiki for various collaborative activities and learned outside the walls of the LMS by linking to hundreds of open resources and tools available on the web. Those elements that required institution lock down due to policies around privacy and copyright remained within the confines of the institutionally supported tools. Aside from these the course remained as open as possible. The green elements depicted below represent the locked down tools which remained behind the University’s firewalls and the yellow elements represent the ties to content outside the confines of the University’s LMS.PLSC234design

Design Highlights:

The design focused on student interactions and choice. Aside from a light compulsory reading component in each module, the students were allowed to choose from 3-5 learning activities to “beef-up” the content for the course. After completing their chosen activity students collaboratively constructed “lecture notes” within the wiki. This collective knowledge was developed, honed, argued, and agreed upon until the page was deemed to be accurate and comprehensive. If none of the choices looked appealing students were welcome to find an additional resource that related to one or more of the learning objectives, complete their own summary and provide a link to their resource for students to explore.

As part of their assignments students are asked to develop profiles on crops, weeds and management techniques throughout the class delivery. Outstanding contributions contribute to the organic agriculture field having been published on an open website. Student work is therefore contributing to the overall discipline and provides students with the opportunity to include this online publication on their CV or in their own learning portfolio.

Aside from the mixed cohorts of credit and certificate students, the interactive activities and variety of tools used, PLSC 234 was also designed to be fully compatible with Blackboard’s Mobile App allowing students to be fully online at any time. This mobility enhanced the experience for students as “in the field” students (literally) were able to document and upload live examples of module topics to the wiki and forums.


Screen Shot 2013-05-14 at 2.53.41 PMThis course design was evaluated using an innovative product called ZEF that has students plotting their opinions on a graph based on the qualifiers attached to the two axes. Using this evaluation system allows for immediate visual data analysis and shows you what elements of the course design were important to students and where you should focus your resources when you’re ready to revise.


During the development of this course we had the opportunity to change several University wide policies around access for the certificate level student. These students now appreciate a higher level of clearance and a wider range of supported tools to work with in their studies.

Link to a related article from On Campus News this past year.

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