Virtual Education Center for Biorenewable Resources: Humanizing Distance Education

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Geisinger, Brandi
Haen, Karri
Kemis, Mari
Pate, Michael
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Raman, D. Raj
Morrill Professor
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Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering

Since 1905, the Department of Agricultural Engineering, now the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering (ABE), has been a leader in providing engineering solutions to agricultural problems in the United States and the world. The department’s original mission was to mechanize agriculture. That mission has evolved to encompass a global view of the entire food production system–the wise management of natural resources in the production, processing, storage, handling, and use of food fiber and other biological products.

In 1905 Agricultural Engineering was recognized as a subdivision of the Department of Agronomy, and in 1907 it was recognized as a unique department. It was renamed the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering in 1990. The department merged with the Department of Industrial Education and Technology in 2004.

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  • Department of Agricultural Engineering (1907–1990)

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Despite the obstacles to traditional distance education courses, distance education and social learning theorists suggest effective distance education courses can be developed. For this study, we designed a new distance education course model and attempted to 1) Test the effectiveness of the virtual education center model, understood through the lens of social learning and distance education theories; 2) Discuss potential improvements to the model; and 3) Build upon distance education and social learning theories. To achieve these goals, distance education courses were offered using the new model. Participating faculty and graduate assistants responded to a survey asking about their experiences with the model. Undergraduate learning was assessed by examining students’ quiz grades, the number of times they attempted quizzes and their ratings and comments for each class period. Students demonstrated learning regardless of whether lectures were live or recorded. Faculty members and graduate assistants learned about biorenewable resources and offering courses through distance education; they also made suggestions to improve future distance education courses. The distance education model used in this study is an effective means of educating students, teaching assistants, and faculty members. Implications for distance education theory and distance education efforts are discussed.


This article is from NACTA Journal 56 (2012): 13–21. Posted with permission.

Sun Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2012