UI Online Course Earns National Recognition

Friday, June 6 2014

MOSCOW, Idaho – June 2, 2014 – Online learning used to be a lonely experience — one person with nothing but a computer and an Internet connection. But the experience is changing as classes become more dynamic, interactive and relevant, so much so that one course in the University of Idaho College of Natural Resources received the 2014 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Exemplary Course.

“The challenge is to make a course with interactive components so those online can feel like they are a part of a learning community. My goal is to make the experience the same for those in the classroom and those online,” said Eva Strand, assistant professor of fire sciences.

Strand led the development of the online course, “Landscape and Habitat Dynamics,” with the assistance of the UI Distance and Extended Education (DEE) staff. The class includes a live class on campus and an interactive component for students based off campus.

The graduate-level class is part of the new master’s degree in fire sciences offered through the college. Fourteen courses online courses are now available online to deliver this professional degree, allowing students to continue working while earning a master’s degree. Visit http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/mymnr/ to learn more about the program. 

The class balances independent learning with group activities, Strand said. All students are assigned reading and online tasks. Online students can stream the weekly lectures, ask questions and participate in classroom discussion. All students also are required to interact online through blog discussions and analysis of each other’s work. Strand holds weekly office hours during which online students can video conference with her.

Strand developed scientific exercises and correlating YouTube videos to guide students through the projects.

“In the past, I’ve seen online students get stuck and spend an entire day trying to figure out the problem. This allows them to watch the video at their convenience and at a time when they need it,” Strand said.

Finally, the course provides a very real graduate-school experience. Students are required to complete all reports in journal article format, a common practice with traditional graduate courses and do a final project with formal presentation that is critiqued by peers.

“That mimics how it happens in the scientific world,” Strand said. 

Strand said developing the course was a learning experience for her, as well. The staff at DEE taught her how to make YouTube videos, encouraged her to include more interactive elements and guided her through the technology available for online learning. 

Blackboard is a global leader in enterprise technology and innovative solutions that improve the experience of millions of students and learners around the world every day. Blackboard’s solutions allow thousands of higher education, K-12, professional, corporate and government organizations to extend teaching and learning online. 


Jodi Walker
Marketing and Communications
College of Natural Resources
(208) 885-2717

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu.