Soil-Net - Development and impact of an innovative, open, online soil science educational resource

Hallett, Stephen H. and Caird, Sally P. (2017). Soil-Net - Development and impact of an innovative, open, online soil science educational resource. Soil Science, 182(5) pp. 188–201.



Despite recognition of soil as a major global natural resource and longstanding policy recognition of its importance for understanding environmental systems and stewardship in a rapidly urbanizing world, soil science has been under-represented in teaching National Curriculum in UK schools. Alongside concerns about declining student participation in science education, a key challenge is how to effectively engage students and address inadequacies in soil education. A UK government-funded initiative led to Soil-Net, an innovative, open, online soil educational website resource to support school curricula. Following a decade of online availability, this paper analyses website data on the adoption, use and impact of Soil-Net 2006-2016. First, data analysis based on geo-identification of over a million and a half users revealed patterns of adoption and usage by territory. Though originally targeted in the UK, Soil-Net is now being used worldwide in 223 countries and territories. Second, analysis of student scores on soil science knowledge quizzes available to be used alongside school education and curricula assessments, provided evidence of student learning supported by Soil-Net resources. Third, analysis based on user ratings and qualitative feedback revealed good satisfaction ratings by primary and secondary school students, teachers and parents. Usage data analysis offers an initial evaluation of Soil-Net, although further research is required to evaluate support for curricula and student learning. Next steps include development of website resources using innovative pedagogies to ensure applicability and sustainability, and research to further evaluate how Soil-Net is used in schools, and its contribution to soil science teaching and learning.

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