Visual Learning, Agricultural Plants of the Riverina: A New Application for Helping Veterinary Students Recognise Poisonous Plants


Students studying either animal or veterinary science at Charles Sturt University are required to be competent in recognising a range of plants that are potentially poisonous to domestic grazing animals. In 2013 these students used a newly developed application "Visual Learning – gricultural Plants of the Riverina" (VL-APR) for their poisonous plant recognition training. VL-APR has two main advantages over poisonous plant books or other computer-based applications. Firstly, an average of nine images per species is available, so a range of growth stages and variation in structure is shown. Secondly, multiple interactive quizzes and tests are available so students are actively engaged in the learning process. At the start of session the animal and veterinary science students obtained an average class mark (for recognition of 40 species) of 11.9%, with a wide range of individual student marks (0.0 to 40.0%). A class of first year agricultural science students was also tested and scored a similar average of 14%. About 70% of these students reported a rural upbringing (i.e. lived on farms), but apparently had little knowledge of common poisonous plants. After using VL-APR for eight weeks the animal and veterinary science students were re-tested, with an average class result of 93.0% (individual student range 45 to 100%). VL-APR would appear to be an effective resource for students to learn poisonous plant recognition at their own pace. In 2013 VL-APR was used as a standalone learning tool, but in future will be integrated with use of living plant material.

Authors,Geoffrey E. Burrows, Gaye L. Krebs and Bruce K. Kirchoff.Bioscience Education

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