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WIU School of Agriculture Andy Baker
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WIU Ag Director Teaching Future Educators about Remote Learning

May 5, 2020

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Editor's Note: This is the tenth in a series of feature stories about Western Illinois University faculty who are adapting and finding unique ways to reach their students during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

MACOMB, IL – Western Illinois University School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker has an unusual perspective on alternative course delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic as he leads a methods class for future teachers.

Baker said his Program Organization in Agricultural Education class has provided his students the opportunity to learn how to teach content by distance learning. Students were assigned agriculture lessons to teach, then converted the lesson to be taught in an alternative format.

"If we were in our traditional, face-to-face format, they would be teaching the lesson to their peers," he said. "I told them what an opportunity that this pandemic has given to us. This will probably not be the last time that they will have to teach content to students via distance learning, so we need to embrace this opportunity. They have more than exceeded my expectations. It has been fun observing all of their creative techniques in developing their lesson plans and assessment strategies."

Baker said he has used a variety of technology outlets, such as Zoom and Google hangouts, so students can exchange information with each other. He said the new format has brought more fun into his classes and he has been impressed with how students have adapted to the technology changes and the quality of their work.

"I am having fun with it," he said. "Technology is one of those things you know you have to learn, but I was not expecting to learn at this pace. It has been a very worthwhile learning experience for me. I never expect my students to do something that I wouldn't do myself, so I had to keep pace with my students."

Baker said the pandemic has been the main focus of the class since WIU's courses were moved to alternative formats in mid-March.

"Everything we have done during this time is to learn how to make sure the learning process continues without having your students in a face-to-face classroom," he said. "They have learned from each other and have provided electronic feedback to their peers on the presentation of their lessons. The learning process is constantly evolving and it has been amazing to watch."

WIU senior agriculture major Alicia Flowers, of Curryville, MO, said the learning experience was a new version for everyone involved.

"The real world experience we got was unbelievable," she said. "While it has been challenging at times, it has allowed me to learn more than can be taught within the walls of a classroom."

The pandemic has forced Baker to rethink every aspect of his teaching process, including using new technologies. His class included a book review and discussion using Google hangouts and Google docs to collect student feedback on the book.

"We were able to save their feedback on Google docs for them to use as their study guide for the final," he said. "I was able to see every student's contribution by observing their writing on the Google docs, and I was able to stimulate their thoughts using the audio and video on Google hangouts."

For more information on the WIU School of Agriculture, visit

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Office of University Communications & Marketing