Developing a Distance Education Course for the University of Guelph: Animal Health DE POPM*4230

The ACER team was approached by the Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Population Medicine to assist in the development of an online version of the undergraduate course entitled Animal Health (POPM*4230). This course examines the causes and effects of important diseases of food animals in Canada. Elements of physiology, epidemiology, microbiology, nutrition, and production management are integrated into a health management approach that emphasizes disease prevention. The course is directed at 3rd and 4th year undergraduate students with an interest in food animal production agriculture and veterinary medicine. This course is offered in-person every fall semester. The Department of Population Medicine was interested in developing a Distance Education (DE) version of this course for roll out in the Fall 2019 semester.


Understanding Learning Outcomes

The team worked with Dr. Todd Duffield, chair of the department, and Dr. Terri O’Sullivan, who currently teaches the in-class version of the course, to use the current course structure, learning outcomes, and materials to develop an engaging, interactive online version of the course.


Taking Animal Health Online

The online version features an overview of common infectious and metabolic conditions affecting beef, swine, poultry, dairy, and small ruminant industries. Species-specific modules were written by ACER and developed into engaging content featuring quizzes and case studies by the OpenEd team at the University of Guelph.


Bringing the Farm to the Students

With concern about the spread of disease and improvements to biosecurity protocols to protect animal health and food safety, there are few opportunities for students to gain access to farms in Ontario. It can be difficult to understand how production systems function without having visited a farm or having first-hand experience of life on the farm. To support student learning and provide insight into agricultural practices, ACER developed several live-action, on-farm videos with the help of the videographers of Tivoli Films.

The videos feature footage of production systems, including different management styles (such as free stall and tie-stall dairy farms) and management at different production stages (such as piglet nurseries and grower areas within swine production). There is drone footage of farm properties to help visualize the scale of a typical farm, and how it relates to food-production in Ontario. Producers were interviewed and recorded to give a detailed outline of ‘a day in the life’ of a producer and an animal that they may care for within their operation.



Evaluating Impact

The course was very well received by undergraduate students, many of whom come from an agricultural background, or have an interest in food-animal production with the goal of applying for vet school in the future. The course exceeded expectations with over 400 students enrolling, and is currently being monitored and administered by a PhD candidate from the department. ACER hopes to continue to manage the course and update it as new research becomes available, and as the course’s interest base and popularity grows.


Do you have an e-learning project you’re looking for advice on? Give us a shout at and we’ll be happy to discuss how we can support your next project!



Department of Population Medicine, University of Guelph

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