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“Forest Ecology Online” Project

The “Forest Ecology Online” Work Group received the State Teaching Award for work in the area of Soil Science and Forest Nutrition.

The prize-winning project “Forest Ecology Online” (headed by Prof. Dr. Ernst Hildebrand) is an innovative educational computer program developed by several departments at the faculty. The project was judged by the expert panel for the State Teaching Award to be particularly outstanding in state comparison and thus received 17,950€ in prize money from the ministry.

The work group took up and consistently implemented the innovative concept of e-learning in the project, which is expected to influence further instructional projects at the Faculty of Forest and Environmental Sciences. The educational software is designed to help undergraduate students of the diplom degree program prepare for their exams and to serve as additional learning aid for independent study. “Forest Ecology Online” gives prospective students of the master’s program the opportunity to prepare for their studies in Freiburg from home and, later on, to review material and consolidate what they have learned. The project features a successful methodological conception and the software is at the same time well thought out and easy to use.

The “Forest Ecology Online” project marks a significant milestone in the further development of instruction, particularly with regard to the optimization of independent study. As the educational software was developed as a tool for teaching the foundations of ecology in the core curriculum of the forest sciences, it is also an integral component of educational reform in the forest sciences, in which classical lectures have been replaced by one- to two-week units focusing on various themes.

The main aim of “Forest Ecology Online” is to provide an additional motivational instrument. It is not designed to replace on-campus courses but to motivate students to engage in intensive and targeted study of the basic principles of the field. “Forest Ecology Online” was evaluated by the students after it was deployed for the first time in courses in summer semester 2000. The software met with broad acceptance: The students found particularly high praise for the possibility to simulate complex processes with the help of animated models and for the interactive exercises. The initiator of the project is Prof. Dr. Karl-Reinhard Volz, who also succeeded in securing considerable funding for its development and implementation from the Stifterverband.