When low and high tech solutions converge: Adapting to teaching soils during the COVID-19 pandemic

Michael L. Mashtare, Charlotte I. Lee, Sherry S. Fulk-Bringman, Erica A. Lott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


COVID-19 restrictions required a transition of our Soil Science and Forest Soils courses to an online format. A pre-transition survey found that ∼10% of students enrolled in our courses lacked high-speed internet capable of streaming videos and/or computers compatible with the applications in our Learning Management System (LMS). To ensure that students with limited internet or technology were not left behind, we adopted a low-tech/bandwidth delivery (slides + transcript with LMS-delivered assessments) of all lectures and recitation activities. Students could also complete either a low-tech/bandwidth (lab slides + transcripts) or high-tech/bandwidth lab option (delivered via video). Upon completion, students were surveyed to assess preferences and perceptions which are vital in understanding how our approach impacted student motivation, engagement with the material, and overall course satisfaction. Despite 90% of the students having access to high-speed internet, ∼45% of the students used the low-tech solutions either exclusively or half the time, even when high-tech options (such as video) were available. Overall, students felt the low-tech/bandwidth delivery of the lecture (∼87%) and recitation (∼76%) material was effective. Students (∼74%) also reported that online delivery of the lab material effectively supported their learning and was an effective replacement for the in-lab learning experience. Students preferred in-person to online delivery (63 vs. 17%) with 20% undecided. Noting the flexibility and organization of the course, 69% of the students felt the online delivery of our courses was more effective than their other courses despite, or perhaps because of, the lack of high-tech delivery. Our experience demonstrates one approach to adapting an in-person course to a virtual environment that considers inequities in broadband and technology access. Despite being perceived as effective by our students, low-tech options were less preferred than in-person instruction suggesting that, while effective, it was not viewed as equivalent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20057
JournalNatural Sciences Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Education
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science
  • Insect Science


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