Asynchronous Learning: The ISU Master of Science in Agronomy Program.
Kenneth J. Moore, Jesse Drew, and Tom Schultz. Iowa State Univ., Dep. of Agronomy, Ames, IA 50011-1010
The Master of Science in Agronomy is a comprehensive distance education program serving professionals in crop and soil sciences. It is unique from many distance education programs in that it was designed for a specific population of distance learners. The curriculum integrates soil science, climatology, crop science, and pest management into a carefully coordinated plan of study designed specifically for the professional agronomist. Students of the program are primarily individuals working in agronomy-related fields in industry and government who need additional training for professional advancement. The program is offered at a distance using browser-based interactive courseware. This makes the program accessible to students who would otherwise be unable to go to a campus to pursue an advanced degree. Students interact with instructors and each other using asynchronous (electronic mail, discussion boards) and synchronous (chat rooms, phone) communication tools. The curriculum consists of 37 credit units of course work and a 3-credit creative component. The first-year curriculum emphasizes basic knowledge and application in the agronomic sciences including crop management, soil management, agricultural meteorology, and integrated pest management and the second year focuses on development of problem-solving and professional skills. The creative component, or professional development project, involves creative thinking and analysis relevant to students’ careers and is required for graduation from the program. The courses have been designed and scheduled so that it is possible to complete the degree within a two-year period. However, most students take between three and five years because of the time commitment required. The program began with an enrollment of fifteen students in a pilot program offered in the 98/99 academic year. There are currently over one hundred students actively pursuing the degree with twenty-seven having graduated from the program. You can learn more about the Agronomy MS Program at http://masters.agron.iastate.edu/.