MSc. Tropical Forestry 2.0 – Updating our master program!

Improving the attractiveness and enriching the quality of the MSc program “Tropical Forestry” is one aim of our institute. Several measures were currently implemented. Within a project from May to July under the Multimedia Fund of the TU Dresden, Dr. François Jost acted as coordinator with the support of Prof. Dr. Gerald Kapp and Dr. Eckhard Auch to develop and implement the following measures for the MSc course: International Webinars, Audience-Response-Systems, E-Learning course, Online Self-Assessments, virtual group works (in discussion Forums).

International Webinars (with Adobe Connect)

We want to increase the presence of guest lecturers from external universities, research institutions as well as national and international organizations. Therefore, we introduce webinars in several modules of the MSc program. By that we can also open them to additional students from the bachelor and master programs of the faculty as well as students and alumni from the German Association of Postgraduate Programs with special Relevance to Developing Countries (AGEP) that might be interested.

In the summer semester, two international webinars have already taken place:

The first webinar on “Silvicultural Practices in the Tropical Montane Community Forests of Nepal” by Prof. Dr. Santosh Rayamajhi and Assistant Professor MSc Suman Bhattarai, both from Tribhuvan University, Institute of Forestry, Nepal, took place on June 15th, 2017.

The second webinar on “Bamboo technology in Vietnam”, by Prof. Dr. Le Xuan Phuong, Vice-Director of the International Cooperation Division of the Vietnam National University of Forestry, took place on June 27th, 2017.

PC screen of the Webinar “Bamboo technology in Vietnam” given by Prof. LE Xuan Phuong


Audience-Response-Systems (with ARSnova)

To enhance students’ attention and participation during lectures and oral presentations an Audience-Response-System has been implemented, which involves the students in a dynamic way. The students can answer various questions online, e.g. via smartphone. It is intended to display the answers immediately to the students in the form of graphs.

The idea is to get the attention of the students by a new technology (smartphone application). It also allows the lecturers to broadly assess the state of knowledge of the students. Finally, it will encourage the students to reflect over certain topics and provoke more enriching discussions between the lecturer and the students (stimulating critical thinking), and boost their confidence.

The use of Audience-Response-Systems has been introduced in 3 Modules of the MSc program during this summer semester. In addition it has being already introduced in the seminar on „Climate change adaptation and rural development“ of the international UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB Course on Environmental Management at CIPSEM, TU Dresden.

We aim to extend it stepwise in the MSc program. Further implementation is planned in several modules during the coming winter semester 2017/18.


Blended E-learning course (available in OPAL)

A completely new module has been developed in the form of an English-language learning course that started this summer 2017 for our MSc students. It will be offered permanently during the winter semester.

The course is available in the TU Dresden’s OPAL platform under the title “Rehabilitation and restoration of degraded landscapes” and can be accessed at the following link:

Extensions and improvements for the upcoming semester are already in progress.


Online Self-Assessments (with ONYX)

Electronic self-assessments play a key role. They release the teacher from time consuming tasks through automatic corrections, delivering students additional individual feedbacks and keep up students’ interest and provide them with a self-control of their learning progress.

Electronic self-assessments and related didactic games at the end of some module chapters have been elaborated for the e-learning course. Online self-assessments elaborated at the end of modules sum up and measure what students have learned.

Practice test with ONYX


Integration of virtual group works

Group work is often not very efficient due to unbalanced collaboration (no cooperation) as it is mostly relevant only for the students which have more affinity with the topic (or where the case study takes place).

By using the support of digital media, we plan to develop virtual group works for some of the e-learning modules of the MSc Tropical Forestry course. We apply the ARCS model (Attention, Relevance, Confidence and Satisfaction) to motivate students and enhance the levels of collaboration and cooperation of the group work.

Tasks and schedules will be established by the lecturer, functioning as moderator, using the online discussion forum of the OPAL platform. The idea is to increase the students’ satisfaction of working together with colleagues that might share affinities and/or be involved in a case study that will be relevant for them. This shall motivate them to equally contribute in the discussion forum.

A first experimentation on these virtual work groups already took place during this summer semester!

Discussion forum in Opal platform

Although, this first trial lacked from a continuous flow with extensive back and forth discussion in the online forum, it was a useful experience for students and lecturers. Measures to tackle the limiting issues and improve the overall experience will be implemented in future virtual work groups in online discussion forums.


Strengthening the media competence of students and teachers

With the digital educational resources implemented in this project, the students actively experienced the use of software and digital media. It has supported (and will support in the future) the strengthening of the overall media competence of students and teachers.


By François Jost

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