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The WIU School of Agriculture has used $2,500 in grant money from the Illinois Farm Bureau for technology upgrades to accommodate teaching changes necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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WIU School of Ag Transitions Grant Funding to Aid with Remote Learning

January 20, 2021

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MACOMB, IL – A yearly donation from the Illinois Farm Bureau, earmarked for student development projects in Western Illinois University's School of Agriculture, has been transitioned because of the COVID-19, and used to purchase technology to enhance remote student learning.

School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker said he asked Illinois Farm Bureau representatives to revise spending requirements for the funding after the pandemic hindered the ability of students to travel or participate in traditional development activities.

"They graciously agreed to allow us to spend $2,500, so we have purchased several new devices to enhance remote teaching and learning," said Baker.

Seventy-five percent of the School of Ag's curriculum is traditionally taught in a face-to-face format, but the pandemic necessitated that half of each class is now logging in remotely. The new equipment was purchased during the Fall 2020 semester and included a combination camera with a microphone, drawing boards for laptops to draw graphs and charts in ag business classes, a tablet to be used by beef faculty and Bluetooth-compatible microscopes that can be plugged into smartphones so students can see the information presented in laboratory classes.

Baker used the camera and microphone for his ag education students, who were teaching students at West Prairie High School remotely. Assistant Professor Graciela Andrango is using one of drawing boards for her ag business class, which is fully online.

Assistant Professor Keela Trennepohl is using the new tablet to create short instructional videos with "how-to's" for the graphing and math portions of her assignments.

"I am able to grade assignments, providing hand written, typed, voice and video feedback," she said. "I am also able to video and edit outdoor lab activities and it has also served as a tool I can use in the classroom for notes and discussion points, keeping me mobile in the classroom."

The funding also helped purchase microscopes that could be plugged into cell phones, so remote learners can see items that are being presented in labs. Assistant Professor Shelby Henning is using the microscopes for his diseases of horticulture and agronomic crops course.

"The microscopes are really fun to work with in the field," said Henning. "There are a lot of weird, microscopic critters on everything. When the students think about how many of these critters are out there, they appreciate their immune system a whole lot more."

For more information about WIU's School of Agriculture, visit

Posted By: Jodi Pospeschil (
Office of University Communications & Marketing