Experience and training in field work is a critical component of undergraduate education in ecology, and many university courses incorporate field-based or experiential components into the curriculum in order to provide students hands-on experience. Due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the sudden shift to remote instruction in the spring of 2020, many instructors of such courses found themselves struggling to identify strategies for developing rigorous field activities that could be completed online, solo, and from a student’s backyard. This case study illustrates the process by which one field-based course, a UC California Naturalist certification course offered at the University of California, Davis, transitioned to fully remote instruction. The transition relied on established, publicly available, online participatory science platforms (e.g., iNaturalist) to which the students contributed data and observations remotely. Student feedback on the course and voluntary continued engagement with the participatory science platforms indicates that the student perspective of the experience was on par with previous traditional offerings of the course. This case study also includes topics and participatory science resources for consideration by other faculty facing a similar transition from group field activities to remote, individual field-based experiences.
Online educational videos have the potential to enhance undergraduate biology learning, for example by showcasing contemporary scientific research and providing content coverage. Here, we describe the integration of nine videos into a large-enrollment introductory evolution and ecology course via weekly homework assignments. We predicted that videos that feature research stories from contemporary scientists could reinforce topics introduced in lecture and provide students with novel insights into the nature of scientific research. Using qualitative analysis of open-ended written feedback from the students on each video assigned throughout the term (n=133-229 responses per video), we identified ten common themes in student perspectives. On the whole, the video homework assignments received more positive than negative comments and all videos received comments suggesting that they were engaging and contributed to learning goals. We discuss opportunities and challenges for the use of online educational videos in teaching ecology and evolution, and we provide guidelines instructors can use to integrate them into their courses.