Exceptional Times Inspire Exceptional Innovation

With just 10 days advance notice, Iowa State faculty members last spring had to quickly convert their in-person classes to online formats due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Innovation in teaching and learning ramped up across campus, and five College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty members were recognized for their extraordinary efforts with Spring 2020 Teaching Innovation Awards from the Office of the Senior Vice President and Provost.

Kate Gilbert, associate teaching professor, food science and human nutrition, along with Ken Prusa, professor of food science and
human nutrition, virtually met with each of the 11 student teams in their food product development course on a weekly basis to discuss
the teams’ product progress.

“This was a very important component because it allowed us to connect with the students, make sure everyone was doing OK, and
make sure they were still able to make progress on their work,” Gilbert says.

The students created infographics about their final products and recorded presentations that were shared with industry board members. Students met with board members virtually to receive feedback and answer questions.

Saxon Ryan, assistant teaching professor, agricultural and biosystems engineering, created first-person laboratory videos to explore the operation of equipment and fluid power circuit development — things his students would normally experience hands-on.

“Students overall had an extremely positive reaction to the lab videos,” Ryan says. “Students expressed how they would have rather been there in person, but the videos were the next best thing.”

In Jelena Kraft’s advanced genetics lab, students used an online research-based lab module to study their gene of interest and its role in fatty acid accumulation in yeast. Kraft, assistant teaching professor, genetics, development and cell biology, and her teaching assistants compiled research data and projects from 10 previous lab sections to provide students experimental data to analyze.

“Recording videos for each experimental step was crucial to students remaining engaged with their project and understanding how the obtained data was generated,” Kraft says.

Prior to spring break, Cynthia Haynes, associate professor, horticulture, sent her students home with soil, containers and floral foam so they could do lab assignments each week. Students were encouraged to go outside and collect flowers and leaves, or purchase flowers from a store, to practice making flower arrangements. Haynes created several videos showing students how to do the various lab exercises.

“While it was a lot of work modifying each class to encourage virtual learning during the spring, it allowed me to think of new ways to
be nimble in my teaching and forced me to engage with more online resources and tools,” Haynes says.

COVID-19 provided a timely example for Nancy Boury’s Predicting the Next Pandemic class. Boury is an assistant professor of plant pathology and microbiology. Read more.