Now that “distance learning” has become almost commonplace, the “virtual field trip” isn’t far behind. Mary Wiedenhoeft teaches a masters’ degree class at Iowa State University and her students get a CD-ROM with an interactive “tour” of an Iowa farm.Students in the capstone Agronomic Systems Analysis courses are located across the country, and in addition to online work, they all receive the CD-ROM. It has topography maps, soil analysis, marketing plans, weather data, and community information as well as the video tour of the farm and interviews with the farm family.They have information for the whole growing season, whereas with a real field trip you only see what’s happening that day. Wiedenhoeft says she and her colleagues won an award of excellence in educational materials from the Agronomy Society of America. Other professors may also be interested in using the CD for their courses.She recently demonstrated the CD field trip to other agronomists, and some were interested because it’s a “pretty good” packaged case study. Wiedenhoeft says they’ll produce a new CD-ROM each year, and include the answers to questions provided by students in the distance-learning class.
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