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BOT 440/540 Field Methods in Vegetation Science

Getting Started

Hints for succeeding in a self-paced course

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Web courses can be a challenge to students used to classroom contact with other students and instructors. Self-paced courses can be a challenge to students used to a regular schedule of lectures and labs. So you're in for a treat with Field Methods in Vegetation Science, a self-paced Web course!

Some hints might help you to meet this challenge, and even thrive.

  • Start immediately! The end of the term might seem like a long way away, but during this time you have numerous exercises and projects to complete. The exercises and projects build on one another, so even if you could complete them all in the last two weeks, you would learn less. Starting now will help you keep on a pace to assimilate the early material before tackling the more advanced material.
  • Set regular times during the week to work on BOT 440/540. You won't have the prodding of "lectures on Tuesday and Thursday" and scheduled assignments, so you have to create your own means of working regularly.
  • Adhere to the recommended schedule, as shown in the Flow of Assignments. This schedule provides for the right amount of time between assignments to allow me to grade your assignments and for you to review my comments.
  • The best way to get an F in BOT 440/540 is to procrastinate, then try to complete the assignments in a rush at the end. If you need convincing, look again at the graph in Course Information.

General hints for getting higher scores

  • Reports sometimes suffer from conceptual problems. Be sure to review the course material — including earlier chapters — while doing the assignments. Try to understand both the concepts involved in the assignments and the specific activities.
  • Some reports fail to answer all parts or questions of the assignment. Catching these omissions by rereading the assignment is an easy way to improve your scores.

Hints for those of you with experience (or just lots of confidence)

  • Some of you have previous experience with field methods. Even if you don't, you might be tempted to jump right into the exercises and projects. After all, many of the exercises and projects have step-by-step procedures.
  • Don't do it!  Do not expect to submit successful reports without studying the chapters, even when the assignments seem familiar and straightforward.
  • Most of the field methods that you have experienced -- I dare say -- are incorrect or incomplete in some way.  An example of an incomplete and incorrect field method is the widespread reliance on transects.
  • Not only that, the assignments in BOT 440/540 ask you to think about what you are doing.  (Sometimes they even ask you to think deeply.) 
  • So, if you have worked on a field crew or conducted your own field study, you have great experience and a jump start in this class.  But those experiences do not substitute for studying and thinking.

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Department of Botany and Plant Pathology

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