Agronomy and Horticulture, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



Ortez, O., Hall, A., & Sindelar, M. (2023). Refined teaching methods, systems thinking, and experiential approaches enhanced students learning through COVID-19. Natural Sciences Education, 52, e20101.


Open access.


The Soil Nutrient Relationships course serves juniors and seniors with a major or minor in agronomy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Pre-pandemic enrollment averaged 65 students. In 2021 and 2022, course enrollment was 42 and 55, respectively. The course was adjusted to a flipped design in 2017. Moving into 2021, the Soil Nutrient Relationships course underwent a major overhaul by changing the content source materials and organization of lab activities while maintaining the flipped delivery format. While responding to the COVID-19 pandemic limitations, the redesign was intended to focus limited face-to-face meetings (in person or webconference) on problem-solving activities. This paper reports on course redesign emphasizing changes for and since the pandemic. Surveys were used in both 2021 and 2022 to assess students’ learning and reception to the course design. In surveys, students responded that they gained knowledge in all course learning objectives and increased both problem-solving and systems approach skills. The overall responses were similar between 2021 and 2022; however, one difference was that students placed a higher value on the in-person discussion and lecture in 2022 relative to Zoom discussion or video lecture in 2021. Despite working on similar problem-solving activities, 81% responded that discussion helped with problem solving skills when done via Zoom in 2021 while 88% responded that in person discussion helped with problem-solving skills in 2022. Smaller group sizes used in 2021 seemed to improve student opinions of learning; this is the one change that instructors plan to use in the future.