Teaching Plant Health Care On-Line

Paul D. Bell

Sir Sandford Fleming College

Click here to return to the schedule of papers


The Internet first appealed to my students and me as an innovative research tool for entomology. Throughout the early 1990's we explored gopher sites and completed veronica searches on a wide variety of entomological subjects. This text only connection, with such sites as, the Universities of Colorado and Minnesota (examples of early adopters) gave us instant access to current and often obscure documents, on such topics as, insect biological diversity or pest identification. As these electronic papers were not available locally or conveniently through our library, the Internet provided fast, efficient and impressive results. We were able to add significantly to our knowledge base.

It was already apparent in the mid-1990's that web-sites with useful content would be attractive to more users. Many web-sites were (and in several cases, still are) aesthetically pleasing but content poor or the reverse. Purely out of a selfish motivation to organise and update my entomology notes, I taught myself html and began assembling an interactive, multimedia enhanced Forest Entomology, web-based course. I began accepting my first remote e-students.

Currently, the courses that I offer through the Sir Sandford Fleming College's web server are:

These accredited courses are available in classrooms or on-line to any body from anywhere at any time via the Internet. All courses are complete with illustrated lecture notes, some with sound files and video. All the assignments and evaluations are interactive and 'live' on the web. Every project can be completed via e-mail, in a totally paperless manner. You can even register on-line. (Please see and 'click' Figure 1)

Figure 1. The 'Welcome' web-page for Paul D. Bell's on-line courses.


Results and Discussion

I have been fortunate to have taught these courses in the classroom and on-line at a few colleges and universities. Technical features and advantages of on-line art instruction, that I have experienced these last few years include:

  • hundreds of pages of lectures are illustrated with actual techniques, much like an electronic textbook or laboratory manual
  • lectures and assignments are electronically ‘linked’ to web-sites that contain additional information and current research topics or advanced techniques for students
  • students may access the course content in any order that suits their individual learning styles or for that matter their individual schedule
  • one on one, personalized instruction and consultation with students either in-person, by toll free phone (1 800 319-9969) or electronically using e-mail pbell@flemingc.on.ca or chat
  • students are able to interact with a much wider base of art and natural resource science students from around the world in our 'virtual classroom'
  • working in a paper-less environment, which is especially relevant at a School of Natural Resources, all art work is scanned and sent as file attachments
  • examinations and self-evaluations are either self-marking quizzes in javascript, or visually interactive with clues, search engines, e-mail and chat conferencing
  • various announcements are made and techniques are demonstrated with mpeg video clips (Please see and 'click' Figure 2)

Figure 2. Lectures, assignments and exams contain Images and sound and video files (as above). Content is interactive through java forms, e-mail and chat.

Benefits of such an on-line plant health care course that students (as they have volunteered through on-line course evaluation forms) can provide, include:

  • a student from a remote part of Ontario, Canada remarked that, "living in an isolated region for so long makes me appreciate more this new technology and the endless possibility for learning."
  • a retired student with virtually no computer experience stated that, "this course was not only a wonderful learning experience but fun...this course has created new interests for me..."
  • a mature student, several hundred kilometres distant from our campus is a working Arborist who "appreciates this service…it gives me a start in my further studies while I can still work"
  • several students from our own college required a single course to complete there diploma and on-line courses with their inherent any time any where format were well suited to their needs
  • a student from North Carolina while at the University of Wisconsin needed an forest entomology course, but the local professor was on sabbatical for at least another academic year
  • a single parent living in a remote part of our province, who was working full time in the field of health care had "little time or alternatives for additional education found my on-line course ideal"
  • several students like this one, "I am a Canadian who is currently residing in South Korea, teaching E.S.L…I sometimes find myself with too much time on my hands…so I enrolled simply for interest sake."

Our college has only just begun the difficult task of integrating marketing, admissions, e-commerce, firewalls and data access, and server support. In the first week of January 2000, we had a few students like this one, "I would like to take part in your on-line entomology course. It is the only course I need to graduate and I finally got a computer to do it. I am having trouble getting to the registration site and was wondering if you could give me some instruction. It will probably take me a while to adapt to using a computer since I have never taken a web based course before so your patience would be greatly appreciated. Any information you could send me concerning registration and enrollment would be very helpful". We have a good deal of work to do in order to truly offer on-line learning.


Bell, Paul D., 2000. "Teaching Plant Health Care On-Line" International Society of Arboriculture, Arborist News Vol. 9, #3, pp 43-44.

Bell, Paul D., 1999. "Bugnet: Teaching Entomology On-Line" in The International Educational Technology Conference Proceedings, Edinburgh, Scotland April, 1999.


Click here to return to the schedule of papers Note: This action will open a new window in your browser