Teaching quantitative ecology online: An evidence-based prescription of best practices


Quantitative skills are becoming central to the undergraduate and graduate curriculum in ecology and evolutionary biology. While previous studies acknowledge that students perceive their quantitative training to be inadequate, there is little guidance on best practices. Moreover, with the recent COVID-19 sudden transition to online learning, there is even less guidance on how to effectively teach quantitative ecology online. Here, I synthesize a prescription of pedagogical best practices for teaching quantitative ecology online based on a broad review of the literature on multiple quantitative disciplines. These best practices include the following: (1) design and implement the class to meet learning goals using online strategies specifically; (2) create an open, inclusive, and welcoming online environment that promotes a sense of learning community; (3) acknowledge the diversity of talents and learning strategies; (4) use real-world examples and assessments; (5) account for gaps in knowledge; (6) emphasize the modeling cycle process; (7) focus on developing ideas rather than tools or procedures; (8) if needed, introduce computational tools thoroughly before combining them with mathematical or statistical concepts; (9) evaluate the course constantly; and (10) put your heart and soul into the class. I hope these practices help fellow instructors of quantitative ecology facing similar challenges in providing our students with the knowledge and skills needed to meet the challenges of the future.

Ecological & Evolution
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Miguel Acevedo
Miguel Acevedo
Assistant Professor of Quantitative Wildlife Population Ecology

My research interests include global change, lizard malaria, and quantitative applications for conservation planning.