Now it's your chance to take part in a field botany experience with us.

There are three main components.

  • Videos - introductory and closing
  • Field Work - applying the dichotomous key in the wild
  • Reflection - a chance to sumbit your thoughts on the experience

While this is only a small portion of what our actual field botany students do in their online course, it is representative of the kind of engaging online experiences we are cultivating at VCU.

For a behind the scenes look at how and why we set up the course the way we did look for the icon. From now on, clicking these elements will provide additional context and information.

To begin, click "Get Started" below and follow the instructions.

Get started!

Why this video

The introductory video establishes the instructor's presence and engages students with a multimedia element. There is a human behind this. This human element is a key differentiator in successful online courses. The video is just over seven minutes long, reflecting research around how people watch video on the web and research around successful videos in online courses.

Beyond this course

In addition to elements of course instruction, VCU ALT Lab is working with a large number of departments to use video in ways that provide new opportunities and understandings for students.

Field Work

Dichotomous Keys

One of the most common tools used in the identification of plants is a dichotomous key. While each key is unique to the plants being identified, all keys use a common format. For a given characteristic feature of the plant, the user is presented with two choices describing the feature, similar to a choose your own adventure story. Depending on the choices made, the user is guided through a series of increasingly detailed descriptions and eventually to a (likely) identification of the plant in question.

The goal of this activity is to get you in "the field" to perform a very basic dichotomous key analysis on a tree in your neighborhood. This interaction will guide you through some of the most basic features used in tree identification and will also add your image to the larger VCU Field Botany website. It is meant to be done on your smart phone but will accept any picture on your computer as well.

Let's Do Some Field Work

Why this interaction

We want students doing real and visible work as early as possible. While we're only identifying a few key elements of the plant in this interaction, it is putting you in a real world scenario and adding their work to a visible and useful whole. The website that holds this work helps community members identify plants and it also allows students to see what other students have done. You can now see other examples of compound leaves or that sycamore can look quite different depending on species, age, and environmental conditions.

Asking students to engage with their individual environment personalizes and differentiates things based on the student's real world environment in a way that's often ignored in online courses. It's of particular advantage in a botany class where location impacts the diversity of the plant species cataloged.

Beyond this course


Your Thoughts

After you’ve watched the concluding video at the left, consider these questions about the online learning experience you’ve just completed and write a brief reflection addressing one or more of them:

  • What seemed familiar? What surprised you?
  • What seemed particularly interesting? What confused you?
  • How would you describe the experience to someone unfamiliar with online learning?
  • Are you more interested in field botany now than you were before?