Seeing Things Differently

Technology in Animal Science Lab Provides Unique Benefits
Dr. Benjamin Wenner
Assistant Professor, College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences
At a Glance: 

Integrating technology into Dr. Benjamin Wenner's lab led to:

  • Increased student engagement and deeper in-class conversations
  • More efficient use of in-class time in the lab and more mastery of technical skills
  • Increased flexibility to meet student needs

Dr. Benjamin Wenner wants to show his students how exciting Animal Science can be. With the help of the Office of Distance Education and eLearning, Dr. Wenner has integrated technology into his Applied Animal Bioscience Laboratory course to help students not only build foundational knowledge but also see the subject he’s so passionate about in new ways. 

“During my PhD, I realized how simple digital technologies can revolutionize the way we work in the laboratory (specifically within rumen microbiology),” said Dr. Wenner. “So it was a logical conclusion that the same technologies could advance our ability to teach students beyond the barriers of traditional laboratory equipment or procedures.”

In the course, Dr. Wenner began preparing instructional videos for students to watch demonstrating practices that they would later use in the lab, giving learners a chance to get familiar with the concept before class started. He also leveraged the iPads provided by Digital Flagship and AppleTVs supported by the Zirkle Fund in his lab to allow students to share directly with the class. 

“Last semester, we had several instances where the student could share what THEY see with us (and ask questions),” remarked Dr. Wenner. “It has led to deeper instruction than the surface we often skim when we tell them what they should be looking at.”

To introduce these new components to his course, Dr. Wenner had to lay some groundwork – learning to navigate and use new apps. 

Microscope views, one purple one green colored.
Digital technology allowed Dr. Wenner to alter the colors in this microscope view to allow all his students to see the histological stain differences.

“As I've learned how to utilize the new tools in front of me, we've been able to make increasingly useful video clips for teaching and engage students more inquisitively,” said Dr. Wenner. “The students tell me they genuinely enjoy watching us demonstrate the work rather than a stranger in a staged video or reading it in the notes.”

Dr. Wenner has seen his work paying off in the classroom, from positive student feedback to more success teaching technical lab procedures and using in-class time. Including technology in his course has meant that students are quite literally seeing things 

they’ve never seen before. 

“We had a digital microscope that we purchased and can plug into our new TVs in the lab,” said Dr. Wenner. “It was great for demonstrating live microscopy and histology to the whole room, but the day we used that digital technology to alter the color display on the microscope and show a color-blind student histological stain differences for the first time - that was truly special.”

Final words of advice from Dr. Wenner? 

“In the beginning, we spent time theorizing on what was best to do or purchase to jump-start our technological overhaul of this lab course. But the day we met with ODEE and actually started receiving advice from experts on the technology was when I knew this would be successful. Their support structured our work into achievable goals, one small win at a time.”

Try it Yourself

Visit the Teaching and Learning Resource Center to find helpful guides for digital tools provided by the university and workshops you can attend to learn more about leveraging technology in your course. 

Looking to consult with someone in ODEE? Fill out their contact form to get in touch.