Course Description

This course covers the identification and classification of woody ornamental plants. Plants common in the prairie environment are addressed and include deciduous and evergreen trees, shrubs, vines and ground covers.

Project Context

This is a short course for a certificate program in Prairie Horticulture. The course is about five weeks long and is delivered entirely online. The original development included curricular alignment with learning objectives, content, and assessments. The assessments were primarily in the form of tests and exams, as plant identification is a large focus in the course. Content in several modules focused on defining characteristics of commons plant life in wood landscapes, primarily in the Canadian Prairies. The content included over 500 images, as well as written content and video.

This particular project focused on slight revisions to the newly developed and piloted course following its first offering.

Affordances and Limitations

While the course had multiple opportunities for students to look at images of plant species along with their defining characteristics, there were no opportunities present for students to try to identify plants based on either descriptions or images. Feedback from the students overwhelmingly pointed out the lack of opportunity to practice. Being a largely independent online course with students from all over the Canadian Prairies, this presented a challenge in terms of how students could practice plant identification.

Design Overview

After reviewing the content, assessments, and learning objectives for the three modules of the course that involve plant identification, the instructional designer suggested using digital flashcards which learners could access at anytime during the course. The principles of the design are based on identification (recognition and naming), and interleaving (randomizing the order which the plants are presented).

Using a customized version of the H5P Dialogue Card content type. Upon launching the learning activity at the end of a module, students would be asked if they would like to shuffle the deck.

If they selected “no”, then all cards in the deck would be presented in the order which they were programmed into H5P. If they selected “yes”, then they would be prompted to identify how many cards they would like to use for practice (intervals of 5).

After selecting the number of cards they wanted to practice with, students would be presented with a series of cards. Each card asked students to Identify the common and scientific names of this plant. Each card front included:

  • an image or text description of a specimen,
  • a “hint” bubble, which provided a prompt for students to focus their attention on a specific characteristic which would help them identify the species such as leave pattern, bark, etc.
  • a “turn” button which flips the card over (revealing the back side)
  • navigation button(s), which move through the deck freely.

SM 4-2 (1) Source: Grant Wood, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Saskatchewan.

After considering the front of the card the student can turn the card over to reveal the back side. The back of the cards include:

  • the same image or description of the specimen as the front side
  • the common and scientific names of the specimen
  • the “hint” bubble contains the rationale, or SME interpretation of how one could identify the specimen based on the image or description
  • a “turn” button which flips the card back to the front side,
  • a “checkmark button” which removes the card from the deck, slowly reducing the deck down as students successfully identify plants
  • navigation arrows.

SM 4-2 (2) Source: Grant Wood, Department of Plant Sciences, University of Saskatchewan.

Presumably, students that did not guess correctly would leave the card in the deck and upon reaching “the end” of the deck, progress back through the deck and attempt to identify the remaining specimens.

Decision Making

The instructional designer had recent experience building a similar tool. Originally, in the H5P forums, the ID saw another H5P user had customized the dialogue card for a gardening course. At the time, the ID used the customized content type for self-study to prepare for an upcoming Judo exam ( The idea was to have a set of flashcards that could be accessed anywhere so the ID could practice technique identification and translation on a computer or on the phone, waiting for meetings for the bus.

This application was a natural fit for the context and student feedback on the Woody Landscape Plants course. The SME was skeptical of further instructional design of the course at first, but upon seeing a demonstration of the flashcards, agreed that this was an approach that would have high impact on student learning for not much more effort.

Design Process

The SME created a spreadsheet containing information to be used in creating the digital flashcards. As the course already had over 500 images, the SME identified images (by copyright catalogue number) for use that had minimal overlap with other assessments in the course. The spreadsheet also included columns for:

  • hint
  • common name
  • scientific name
  • rationale/explanation

There were three spreadsheets created, one for each of the categories of species studied in the course. Upon receipt, the ID made copies of the images and copyright information (which is embedded in the flashcard interactive), and used the H5P content editor to create the cards. The ID shared links to the cards with the SME for review and quality assurance.


The cards are used each term in the class. Feedback from the students has been positive in terms of functionality and ability to practice plant identification skills. The instructor has also indicated that students are performing better on the identification portions of the tests and exam.

While the tool is working mostly as intended, occasionally it does not resize to the browser correctly. This will need to be addressed in the code for the tool at a future date.

“IMG_1473.jpg” by Murray Foubister is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0