Sunday, March 9, 2014

Online Gardening Courses - Who Knew?

I feel a little silly to be arriving so late to the party.   I had no idea that there were so many online courses in gardening available, both academic and otherwise.

I've been teaching various sociology courses online for several different community colleges (one in Oregon, two in Washington, and now here in Idaho)  over the past fifteen to twenty years.  I'm well acquainted with the concept of creating engaging learning experiences in the virtual world.  I'm a strong supporter of using web based tools to overcome problems of time and distance that would otherwise prevent someone from getting the education they want.   I just never have encountered this being applied to gardening.

As I was perusing a few different garden websites and blogs this afternoon I came across My Garden School,  a business in England that offers all sorts of horticulture courses.

That prompted me to look a bit closer to home.  First I found something from Better Homes and Gardens,  but when I dug a little deeper I found that was really something produced by Craftsy.
For thirty bucks you get 14 "lessons".   However, these are archived videos with no live interaction or feedback from the instructor at all.   HMMM....  that does not sound like a "class" to me.  I can buy gardening books (or check them out from my local library) and search YouTube for videos on how to grow stuff.   To me education has as much to do with the relationship between the teacher and learner as it does with the quality of the content.

Besides, if I wanted canned classes,  there are some great things available on various gardening topics from free from universities with good reputations.

Hoping to find something with a bit more student -to - instructor interaction led me to the offerings at Universal Class.  These are more expensive, but in my mind you get what you pay for.  Here you get instructor led classes.  I really like their business model.  You can pay anywhere from $45 to $70 for an individual class that you have six months to finish at your own pace,  Or pay $189.00 for a yearly subscription and take any course you want, as many courses as you want (over 500 to choose from).

Here's what I'm thinking....   we just cancelled our Direct TV which we decided was not something we wanted anymore.  We had been paying about $70 per month for a whole lot of channels we seldom watched.  Now we just have Netflix and watch a few shows online.    For less than the cost of  three months worth of TV that sucked all the goodness out of my brain,  I could now get a year long subscription to all sorts of cool classes.   I would still be looking at a screen, but instead of being passively entertained with the same old TV dramas I could be learning new skills, developing talents, widening my horizons....   That may be well worth considering at some point.  But the truth is, right now I don't want to be sitting inside staring at a screen any more than I have to. 

I want to be out digging in the dirt.

So I kept looking to see what else the world wide web might have to offer:

Oregon State University offers an online Master Gardener Program 

And then for totally self directed learners there are just all kinds of cool garden planning tools and general info about growing stuff.

So yes, I am aching to get out in the gardens and begin turning soil and planning new plant arrangements.  But since I live in the growing zone that I do  (6b),  I still have some cool, rainy days and chances of frost to get through before true spring arrives.   Nice to know that while I am biding my time before my serious garden gets started there are all sorts of resources I can make use of while I'm warm and snug here in the house.

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