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Research article2022Peer reviewedOpen access

Can field botany be effectively taught as a distance course? Experiences and reflections from the COVID-19 pandemic

Auffret, Alistair; Ekholm, Adam; Hämäläinen, Aino; Jonsell, Mats; Lehto, Carl; Nordkvist, Michelle; Öckinger, Erik; Redbo Torstensson, Peter; Viketoft, Maria; Thor, Göran


The COVID-19 pandemic that started in 2020 forced a rapid change in university teaching, with large numbers of courses switching to distance learning with very little time for preparation. Courses involving many practical elements and field excursions required particular care if students were to fulfil planned learning outcomes. Here, we present our experiences in teaching field botany in 2020 and 2021. Using a range of methods and tools to introduce students to the subject, promote self-learning and reflection and give rapid and regular feedback, we were able to produce a course that allowed students to achieve the intended learning outcomes and that obtained similarly positive student evaluations to previous years. The course and its outcomes were further improved in 2021. We describe how we structured field botany as a distance course in order that we could give the best possible learning experience for the students. Finally, we reflect on how digital tools can aid teaching such subjects in the future, in a world where public knowledge of natural history is declining.In an era of large-scale biodiversity change and reductions in basic knowledge of natural history, it is important that practical courses in subjects like field botany continue to be taught effectively. Forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to teach plant identification with no direct contact with students, we used a range of methods and tools to promote self-learning and reflection in students, and to facilitate rapid feedback by teachers. Here, we present our method for producing a course that allowed students to achieve the intended learning outcomes and that obtained positive student evaluations.


floristics; learning; online course; pedagogics; plant identification; teaching

Published in

2022, Volume: 14, number: 1, article number: plab079