Classes aren’t what they used to be in Washington State University’s College of Agriculture and Home Economics.
“We still have chalkboards in classrooms, but many of them are the dustless kind because dust interferes with computers and other modern classroom equipment,” noted Larry James, associate dean and director of academic programs for the College of Agriculture and Home Economics.
In many classrooms, lectures have become multi-media presentations. They are assembled on personal computers with presentation software and displayed on television monitors.
“Instead of carrying their notes to class, many faculty carry their laptops and plug them in,” James said. “They connect with their office computer so they can pull up any materials they need.”
The 50 minute lecture itself is becoming less important as an instructional tool. “Our whole instructional program has been based on the 50 minute lecture,” James said. “We’ve evaluated faculty on how well they have delivered lectures rather than what the learner is able to do as a result of them.
“When you start focusing on the learner, you start looking at different ways of achieving that outcome. That really frees you to think about different ways of doing things other than lecturing for 50 minutes.”
That includes learning experiences such as is offered future dietitians in the food science and human nutrition department. Juniors and seniors majoring in dietetics develop multi-media presentations for community groups in Kathy Beerman’s Human Nutrition 436. In a supervised practice course the following semester, they make their presentations to groups under the watchful guidance of Lois Jensen.
Students have made presentations on food borne illnesses to food service workers in campus dining halls, to daycare providers on feeding young children and to seniors on interactions of food and drugs.
“Many students are anxious about making presentations before groups,” Beerman said. “That’s something many of them will be doing during their careers. These classes provide them with the opportunity to develop those skills.”
College faculty are reaching new audiences in new ways. Since 1990, entomology faculty have repackaged many multi-credit courses into one credit modules that can be presented during a single week. The classes are attractive to students in Washington who cannot commit semesters of time to their education. These classes have been delivered overseas as well, including to students in Costa Rica, Chile and Scandinavia.
Place bound students are being reached in other ways. The college is developing a tri-state ag degree program with the University of Idaho and Oregon State to be offered in a distance education format.
“Ideally we’ll split the work and put together a complete program for about a third of the cost,” James said. Initially, video tapes will be used to deliver lectures.
Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, students at Wenatchee Valley College in Wenatchee may soon be able to earn a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from WSU without ever coming to Pullman. The gift will help support Kent Mullinix, director of the WVC tree fruit program and teacher of pomology, who has a joint appointment with WVC and WSU. The endowment also will provide the technology needed to deliver WSU courses to WVC and other potential sites.
Last year WSU Cooperative Extension launched pilot learning centers at Colville, Longview, Port Hadlock, Port Townsend, Tacoma and Yakima in collaboration with counties, community colleges and other partners to broaden access to the university.
The centers are one-stop educational locations for credit and non-credit offerings from WSU. Last spring a total of 281 students enrolled in classes for credit. About twice that many took non-credit offerings.
Land Grant Day celebrates the university’s heritage as one of the nation’s 105 land grant colleges and universities. WSU was founded in 1890 under provisions of the Morrill Act of 1862 which provided states grants of federal land to support creation of colleges that would provide a practical education for the public, with special concern for people from rural backgrounds.
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