More than ten years ago, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) funded the design, development and launch of Soil-Net, an innovative, open, online soil education website resource to support school curricula. Soil science has been under-represented in teaching National Curriculum in UK schools, despite recognition of soil as a major global natural resource and longstanding policy recognition of the importance of soil for understanding environmental systems and stewardship.
The design and development of Soil-Net was led by Cranfield University with the Norwich University of the Arts (now Norwich University of the Arts) and included the Open University, schools and other partners. Following more than a decade of online availability, Stephen Hallett (Cranfield University) and Sally Caird (The Open University) analysed website data on the adoption, use and impact of Soil-Net 2006-2016, to provide an initial evaluation of the website resources.
Soil-Net is now being used in 223 countries and territories worldwide and has been used by over a million and a half users across the world. The analysis provided evidence of student learning supported by Soil-Net resources, and the user ratings and qualitative feedback from primary and secondary school students, teachers and parents showed satisfaction ratings were broadly good.
We would like to do more work to develop the website resources using the latest innovative pedagogies and ICTs to ensure the applicability and sustainability of the resources. Research is also needed to further evaluate how Soil-Net is used in schools, and its contribution to soil science teaching and learning.
For more information – Hallett, S. and Caird, S. (2018). Soil-Net – Development and impact of innovative, open, online soil science educational resources. Soil Science (In Press). doi (10.1097/SS.0000000000000208).
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