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Back in the saddle: student response to remote online equine science classes


The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged professors and students of all disciplines to adjust quickly to remote online teaching and education platforms. In this new era of remote teaching, a greater challenge has been presented in the field of equine science; how to effectively share knowledge that is most often demonstrated by providing students access to live, in-person animal examples. Historically, students and teachers believed skill sets, which are vital for future careers in the industry (e.g., veterinarian) must be learned through hands-on experience. However, in-person methods were not available, so students were taught through the Zoom platform. Students enrolled in various levels of equine science classes were invited to complete a short voluntary questionnaire measuring their response and perception to equine courses taught in an entirely online remote setting by the same professor. One group was comprised of undergraduates majoring in the field (n = 44) in upper level equine science courses, Advanced Equine Reproduction Physiology and/or Equine Enterprise. These students, 41 females and 3 males, ranged in age from 20 to 25 yr, were provided a voluntary questionnaire seeking responses related to the perceived effectiveness and individual preferences of in-class lectures and in-person labs vs. remote online teaching practices. A similar questionnaire was offered on a volunteer basis to precollege students (n = 17). These students, female, high-school students from freshman to senior status (14-18 yr of age), were interested in equine science as a major at UC Davis in the future. This questionnaire evaluated their response to a 2-week remote synchronous online equine science course, which included multiple teaching methods, including lectures, mini labs, and full labs. Responses from both populations suggested that equine courses were perceived as effective when offered as online, remote courses. Live (synchronous) classes and labs offered on Zoom increased engagement and interaction, but students also appreciated the opportunity to access recorded materials. Students responded positively to online remote teaching and found courses to be effective for increasing their knowledge about equine science in an engaging manner, despite their continued preference for in-person instruction.

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