Designing and implementing a synchronized multi-university cover crops course

Andrea Basche, Karen A. Renner, Erin R. Haramoto, Uriel D. Menalled, Sam E. Wortman, Dara Park, Richard G. Smith, Dean G. Baas, Katherine L. Tully, Matthew R. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The increasing attention around cover crops in US agriculture to address many sustainability challenges necessitates targeted educational approaches to support future agriculture professionals. This article describes the process by which a team of educators, with different areas of expertise and from different regions, collaborated to design and implement a multi-university, semester-long, hybrid course titled “Cover Crops in Agroecosystems.” Course development occurred over 2 years during which the format, learning outcomes, as well as synchronized topics and activities were discussed, negotiated, and finalized. The course consisted of weekly pre-recorded lecture videos, in-person labs, and remote synchronous multi-site meetings. An end-of-semester survey administered at six universities in fall 2022 found that students valued the multi-regional dimension of the course, including learning from different instructors and interacting with students from other institutions. The survey also found broad student agreement that learning objectives were achieved, particularly around topics of cover crop agronomy and management. The team's experience with course development highlights how designing and implementing a multi-university course where students report a quality learning experience is achievable. However, course execution ultimately required considerable effort, more than 2 years of planning, as well as ongoing team discussions and modifications that did not significantly reduce the time needed to prepare a more traditional individual instructor-led course. Course execution also required considerable flexibility in decision-making that aligned with different university constraints, instructor styles, and student needs. This effort and flexibility resulted in a quality student experience on a topic area of importance for advancing sustainable agriculture.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere20141
JournalNatural Sciences Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Authors. Natural Sciences Education published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Society of Agronomy.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Education
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Soil Science
  • Plant Science
  • Insect Science


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