Posts Tagged ‘Master Gardener training’

2017 Workshop 1st Place – 10-Minute University, Clackamas County, OR

Saturday, June 24th, 2017

A Shortcut to Gardening Know-How: 10-Minute University™, Clackamas County, Oregon

Introduction

10-Minute University™ offers a shortcut to research-based gardening know-how. During 2015 & 2016, 10-Minute University speakers taught one hundred and fourteen classes serving 3,883 clients with 5,370 educational contacts. Classes and handouts are offered free to all persons.

A Shortcut to Gardening Know-How: 10-Minute University™, Clackamas County, OregonClackamas County Master Gardeners began 10-Minute University™ as short classes for busy shoppers at their popular Spring Garden Fair. In 2006, they tested the idea by offering 10 classes, each lasting only 10 minutes. Client evaluations immediately showed that the audience liked every aspect of these classes except their duration. Today, the average class lasts 25 minutes.

Every class is evaluated in writing to assess the overall class, content, presenter, and likelihood of using what was learned. Clients participate on a voluntary basis. Results are tallied, shared, and tracked over time for action.

 

 

Program Design

A strong evaluation system is just one core tenet. The other two are highly-skilled MG instructors and well-crafted take-home handouts.

Instructors are active Master Gardeners who excel in public speaking and horticultural knowledge. All are committed to research-based information.

A Shortcut to Gardening Know-How: 10-Minute University™, Clackamas County, Oregon

A two-sided, one-sheet handout accompanies each class. Its development begins with a review of extension literature and ends with review comments from Extension agents, with many drafts and revisions in between. MG volunteers do the research, drafting, revisions, editing, and publishing.

Currently there are forty-three handouts posted at www.cmastergardeners.org

 

 

 

 

SFE A Shortcut to Gardening Know-How: 10-Minute University™, Clackamas County, Oregon

Venues

10-Minute University classes are featured at two Clackamas County Master Gardeners annual educational events. In March, Garden Discovery Day helps jumpstart the gardening season. In October, Fall into Gardening shows how to put a garden ‘to bed’.

Classes continue to be part of the Spring Garden Fair in May, the MG Speakers’ Bureau year-round, and are offered at the Oregon City Farmers Market during the summer.

 

Outcome

A. Written Survey (upon completion of class)

Evaluations show the vast majority of clients find 10-Minute University classes an effective way to learn. During 2015 and 2016, every class was evaluated in writing by clients. The graph below shows the results.

88% of clients surveyed strongly agreed with the statement “I will use what I learned today.”

B. Longitudinal Survey (3 months after class)

Two themes emerged from their responses to the question “Have you used anything learned from those classes? If yes, would you share some specifics?”

  • First, clients used what they learned.

“I successfully deterred slugs from my new plants, planted some beautiful potted containers, and reseeded my entire lawn. I also amended my soil this year with compost.”

“The class on pollinators was wonderful! I started a new garden just for bees and butterflies.”

  • Second, clients gained confidence in gardening.

“My husband and I planted our first vegetable garden using the information given to us by this series of classes. It gave us our confidence to do things correctly, instead of trial and error.”

“Yes! You guys are my source to current gardening practices and how-to. Without you I would not have the confidence I have today.”

Online IPM Modules for Master Gardeners- A New Educational Tool

Friday, March 15th, 2013
Basil plant heavily infected with basil downy mildew (Picture by Bruce Watt, University of Maine, Bugwood.org)

Basil plant heavily infected with
basil downy mildew (Picture by Bruce Watt,
University of Maine, Bugwood.org)

Need to brush up on your pests to answer client garden questions?

Learn about newly emerging or persistent plant diseases and insect problems in the home landscape with the NEW University of Illinois Extension Online IPM modules. These modules are designed for Extension Master Gardeners but can be used by home gardeners and green industry professionals.

Eight Self-paced Online IPM Modules

Eight online IPM modules are currently available, covering landscape pest and problems such as:

  • Brown Marmorated Stink Bug
  • Thousand Canker Disease
  • Spruce Problems
  • Downy Mildew on Impatiens,  and more.
  • Bacterial Leaf Scorch
  • Sudden Oak Death
  • Emerald Ash Borer
  • Bur Oak Blight

Module Quick-Facts

Each module is self-paced and contains information and pictures about the pest or pathogen, host plants, symptoms, diagnosis, management and much more. Here we answer a few common questions you may have:

  • Can I earn continuing ed (CE) credits for each module? Each module provides about  1/2  hour of continuing education for Illinois Master Gardeners.
  • Will the CE credit apply in my state? Check with your local coordinator to be sure these modules fulfill the educational requirements in your county and state. (As mentioned, the modules are also a great resource to answer client questions in the office.)
  • How will I get a certificate of completion? After completion of the module content, a short quiz should be completed. Participants must receive a perfect score on the quiz before completing a brief evaluation and then printing a certificate of completion.
  • Is there a charge? The course is free of charge, but participants must register and create a login and password.

The modules were written by University of Illinois plant pathologists and entomologists and more modules are currently under construction. Evaluations show that Master Gardeners value this new easy tool for completing educational hours while staying abreast of current landscape pests and pathogens.

Want to see what a module looks like? View the brown marmorated stink bug example below or directly access these Online IPM modules at  http://mg.cropsci.illinois.edu/index.php

Example of IPM Online Module

Brown Marmorated Stink Bug, University of Illinois IPM Module Example

– Monica David, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Coordinator

The Power of Pollinators – Spreading the Buzz with Three Educational Modules

Monday, June 25th, 2012

 

As National Pollinator Week 2012 comes to a close, the Extension Master Gardener blog detailed how EMG’s observe Pollinator Week through both the week and the past year.  As Master Gardeners, we all love to cultivate our gardening knowledge — therefore the Power of Pollinators training modules created by The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, University of Wisconsin-Madison and The Ohio State University is the best conclusion to a week dedicated to pollinators.

Access Three Pollinator Educational Modules at eXtension Campus

Each Power of Pollinator module has a train the trainer approach to help spread the word about pollinators. This set of three modules covers:

  1. Why Pollinators Matter
  2. Bee Biology and Identification
  3. Gardening for Pollinators

You can easily access all three modules through the eXtension Campus website, campus.extension.org.

First, set up an account using the “Create an account” link on the left side of the page. It’s free, easy and secure.

Once you have that account created (you will receive an e-mail with confirmation and a password), log into the eXtension Campus site, scroll through the available course categories and select , “Yard and Garden”. Then select “The Power of Pollinators”.

See the Intro to the Power of Pollinators video for a quick overview of what you’ll find in the educational modules:

As we end the celebration of National Pollinator Week 2012 on the EMG blog,  we look to see the daily benefit of pollinators in our gardens. To assist others learn about pollinator benefits and gardening for pollinators, check out these three modules and begin to get the latest knowledge to identify and care for them throughout the entire year.

Terri James, Extension Assistant-Urban Gardening
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension

How I Became a Master Gardener

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

I finally decided to take the plunge and become a Master Gardener this spring.  I recently moved to Indiana.  New to the area I recognized becoming a Master Gardener would be a great way to make friends with fellow gardeners, become active in the local community and learn the specifics of gardening in my newly adopted home town.   

Master Gardener Class of 2012 - I'm the pregnant gal in black on the far left.

 

My classes started the second week of January, meeting once a week until the last week of April.  Kurt Campbell, Extension Educator for Ag and Natural Resources for Purdue, organized our classes and taught a chunk of them.  He did a wonderful job encouraging socializing.  We didn’t need too much help; the class was made up of 19 verbose students.  Apparently we were one of the bigger more talkative classes in recent history.  We had a good time sharing our personal gardening stories, favorite local nurseries and plotting out all the new things we were going to try in our gardens that we learned in class. 

Each class was a different topic.  We covered:

  • Plant Science
  • Weed Identification and Control
  • Pesticide Safety and Alternatives
  • Soil and Plant Nutrition
  • Woody Ornamentals
  • Insect Pest Diagnosis and Control
  • Plant Disease Diagnosis and Control
  • Home Lawn Care
  • Home Fruit Production
  • Herbaceous Ornamentals
  • Composting
  • Indoor Gardening
  • Home Vegetable Crop Production

I loved that we had guest speakers for many of the topics. They were local horticulture business owners or State Extension Specialists.  Not only did I learn a lot from them, but now I know who to contact to learn more about bee keeping or which variety of apple is best for my zone and soil type. 

Master Gardeners Tour Local Farm

Nathan Fingerle giving a tour to our Master Gardener class of his green houses where he uses colored plastic to boost growth and repell insects.

 

For the last class we did a field trip to the Fingerle’s River Ridge Farm, a local small farmer who grows vegetables year round in a series of green houses and in the summer on a two acre plot of land.  It was a fascinating look at how productive an intensively managed vegetable garden could be, especially with a little added protection from row covers.  I think we all left with a bag of spring mix lettuce, freshly dug carrots or leeks as well as a whole lot of ideas to implement in our own gardens. 

At the end of the class we took a written test to make sure we had learned enough to graduate to Master Gardener Interns.  (We’ll get to be full Master Gardeners once we complete 35 hours of approved volunteer service.)  There was quite a bit of concern that it would be hard to get the minimum of 70% and fail.  Many questions were asked to make sure everything on the study guide was understood.  In the end all the hard work paid off and everyone passed! 

I miss my weekly class and I can’t wait to see everyone again at the monthly Master Gardeners Club meetings.

What is an Extension Master Gardener?

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Extension gives rise to the [Extension] Master Gardener program in 1972

Extension, an educational outreach service of land-grant Universities, helps people and their communities use scientific research and knowledge to solve problems and improve their lives. While many may be unaware, the Extension service of Washington State University first gave rise to the Master Gardener program in 1972. Pierce and King counties in Washington State were the first to initiate this new Extension program for training volunteers. A win-win for universities and local communities, the master gardener program helped universities expand gardening knowledge to meet the public’s increased demand for information on horticulture, gardening, and plant problems.

Love of learning – benefits to being an Extension Master Gardener volunteer

I’ve asked many Extension Master Gardeners why they volunteer with the Extension Master Gardener program…and the number one reason (unscientifically speaking) is that they ‘love to learn’.  I’m often told part of the fun of being an Extension Master Gardener is the continued learning of how research can be applied and understood through volunteer projects, and then how they can share that knowledge with others in service to their communities. Many also enjoy having access to reduced cost continuing gardening/horticulture education in exchange for contributing to a yearly minimum of volunteer hours.  And of course, becoming a better gardener is another great reason for being involved in the program (among others)!

Several years ago, I took a hand-held video camera and asked several University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners why they liked being a Master Gardener.  Here is what they said:

Local Programming in Nearly Every State Leads to Big Impact Nationally

While Extension programs are largely funded at the county and state level, federal support for Extension and the Extension Master Gardener program exist. Collectively, all the state and county U.S Extension services are called the Cooperative Extension system.

49 states Extension programs across the Cooperative Extension System administer an Extension Master Gardener program. Thanks to the 2009 Extension Master Gardener survey, you don’t have to wonder any longer what that all adds up to… The 2009 Extension Master Gardener conservatively estimated there are 94,865 Extension Master Gardener volunteers from the United States who have contributed 5,197573 hours educating the public, providing youth programs and facilitating produce donations to food banks which is estimated to provide 101.4 million dollars in value to the public.

Extension Master Gardeners: We’d love to hear about your Extension Master Gardener volunteer experiences. Share a link, or video or other stories via the comments on this blog so we can learn about what Extension Master Gardeners are doing in your neighborhood, county, or state.

How to connect with your local Extension Master Gardener program

Did you come to this post looking to connect with local Extension Master Gardeners in your county, region, or state? Try your local Cooperative Extension office or find your state’s Extension Master Gardener contact information

Introduction to (Plant) Diagnostics for Master Gardeners – Online Module

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Introduction to Diagnostics for Master Gardener Volunteers: Approaches to Plant Pest Diagnostics is a new online module available for Extension Master Gardeners through eXtension.

About the Module

Sponsored by the North Central Consumer Horticulture working group (a group of extension specialists and master gardener coordinators from the twelve state North Central region), this course is now available for Extension Master Gardeners to take as continuing education for a $10 fee and self-paced, ten week duration. Participants will earn a certificate for 3 hours of continuing education credits when the course is complete (check with your local Extension Master Gardener coordinator to see if this continuing education credit applies in your county or state).

Module Components

Denise Ellsworth and Sarah Ellis of Ohio State University have assembled this course on behalf of the North Central Consumer Horticulture working group to offer Extension Master Gardeners some guided help to enhance their plant diagnostics skills. The course has several course components:

  • Narrated PowerPoint presentations
  • Handouts
  • Fact sheets
  • Certificate worth 3 continuing education credits (upon completion)

How To Enroll:

1)Visit the eXtension website, http://campus.extension.org
2) Set up an eXtension Moodle account:

  • “Create an account” link (top, left side of the page) via the secure connection.
  • Once you have that account created, you will receive an e-mail with a confirmation and a password. Follow the instructions in the email to complete your account set-up.
  • Remember your login and password, so you can access this or other future courses.

3)Login in to the course

  • After you create an account, log into eXtension Moodle ( http://campus.extension.org/ ) . Find the log in entry at the top, left side of page, where you first created the account.
  • Scroll through the available course categories and select Master Gardener (under Yard and Garden).

4)Pay for the course using PayPal (Course fee is $10.00)
Note: You do not need a PayPal account to pay by credit card (see comments section for more information)

5)View the course and get started

Module Flyer

Want to spread the word about this module? See the module flyer:
Introduction to Diagnostics for Master Gardener Volunteers: Approaches to Plant Pest Diagnostics

Another Successful Year for Former SFE Award Winner

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

Below is an update from James Quinn, Regional Horticultural Specialist with University of Missouri Extension. With the help of James’ leadership, this project was honored at the 2009 International Master Gardener Conference as a Search for Excellence Award winner. Applications are currently being accepted for the 2011 International Master Gardener Search For Excellence awards

Work Party Potting Plants

The Central Missouri Master Gardeners (CMMG- located in Jefferson City/Cole County) placed third in 2009 for their innovative greenhouse project. A primary purpose is to produce plants for their annual spring fundraiser. Sales in 2010 were up a smartly over the prior year (20%)  to over $38,000. Since costs are controlled with  volunteer labor, recycled pots, and timely purchasing of discounted potting soil the ‘profits’ were about $28,000. This has allowed the Master Gardeners to increase more of its beautification projects, amplifying their volunteer efforts in giving back to the community. Master Gardener’s in St. Charles, MO have taken interest and come to visit and learn a couple of times.

The project was to fully develop a greenhouse and training facility in conjunction with Jefferson City’s Parks and Recreation Department (JC P&R). This included the design of the greenhouse, fundraising for the additional capital required, its construction, and all phases of plant production within it.

This project placed active Master Gardeners (MGs) in lead positions for implementing the project and for producing the flowering and vegetable plants within it for the annual plant sale. While many active MGs participate in ‘work parties’ at the facility, it has served the MG trainees especially well for acquiring their volunteer hours and learning about the ‘green industry’, which is Missouri’s largest sector in horticulture. The general public is primarily impacted through the project with the CMMG’s annual plant sale, which attracts and estimated 800 individuals. A hands-on vegetable class targeting the general public has been given each spring for the last 3 years.

The location of the greenhouse is in North Jefferson City (Callaway County), an area that is restricted from intensive development or housing, since it is in the floodplain of the Missouri River, but just across the bridge from Jefferson City. Examples of development in this area are outdoor sporting-type businesses, parks and athletic fields, a sod farm, and community gardens (vegetables). The primary partner was JC P&R. The city provides electricity, land and water at no charge. CMMG pays for gas, owns the structure and carries liability insurance. This arrangement is detailed in a general operating agreement contract. JC P&R also provided a no hassle tax deductible account (for free) for which donations were made. The Cole County Extension Council demonstrated their approval with a significant contribution. But perhaps most important was the financial support given by the community- 51 businesses and 46 individuals made a financial donation.

In some cities, MG plant sales have generated concern as competing with area greenhouses. This is addressed by focusing on it as a ‘Training Center’. CMMG believes a MG who has an enjoyable experience working in a greenhouse generates an appreciation for high quality gardening products, thus becoming an advocate for gardening, whereby they stimulate demand to the benefit of area garden centers. 

Submitted by James Quinn, Regional Horticulture Specialist- Central Region, University of Missouri Extension

 A great update for this award winning project!

Best, Bill Hofman – USDA/NIFA

National Extension Master Gardener Coordinators Conference

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

 

Did you ever want to talk about the efficacy of On-line Training for Volunteers? How about learning more about ways to fund your local program? What about learning how to use a high quality on-line Integrated Pest Management resource at UC Davis? How about kicking back in the evening with Master Gardener Coordinators from throughout the nations and learn first hand how they do it in their state? Well, the opportunity is now available by attending the National Extension Master Gardener Coordinators Conference being held at UC Davis, California on October 6,7, 8, 2010.

The the theme of this conference is “Can You Hear Me Now?  Technology and the New Age of Education and Outreach”.  The conference goal is to bring together all of the statewide, county or parish based Master Gardener Coordinators to provide an opportunity for learning new technologies to better manage programs, to learn about national inititiatives such as invasive species programs and how MGs can be integrated into it, and to provide a chance to learn from others’ successes in special outreach programs as well as learning from each other about better ways to manage Master Gardener Programs in these challenging times.

To join the conference, you can view the entire agenda, our speakers and registration details at: http://ucanr.org/sites/master_gardener/

 We hope to see you there!Storer north entry

Neighbors Against Bad Bugs (N.A.B.B.)

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

The Purdue University Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) Outreach and Education Team has developed a new program for Purdue Master Gardeners called Neighbors Against Bad Bugs (N.A.B.B.), focusing on…

  • Delivering information about management options for EAB in neighborhoods on the brink of severe damage from the pest
  • Making the ash tree resource visible to the general public
  • Creating a readily mobilized chain of volunteers who can respond quickly to EAB and any future pests that threaten neighborhood trees.

The N.A.B.B. program encourages communities and individuals to make good choices about their ash trees before EAB arrives, which not only saves money but allows conservation of the tree canopy in their yards and neighborhoods.

EAB Traps in Indiana (click to enlarge)

Master Gardeners help with EAB Identification

Master Gardeners working with County Extension Educators will be trained to organize and assist volunteers from their communities’ Neighborhood Associations in identifying and tagging ash trees on city right-of-ways with distinctive purple tags. The tags contain contact information and the web address of the Purdue EAB web site (extension.entm.purdue.edu/EAB/), which explains management options in urban settings, and offers advice on working with local tree care professionals to negotiate reduced rates for treatment or removal of ash trees on peoples’ property. The program involves a face-to-face 2 hour training session for Master Gardener Volunteers, who will then assist volunteers from neighborhood associations in ash tree tagging events.

Launching N.A.B.B. in Indiana

The Purdue team is launching N.A.B.B. in the Lafayette/West Lafayette area. They are also working with the City of Indianapolis and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. (KIBI) to tag the city’s ash trees while distributing information about managing EAB to local Neighborhood Associations. There is great interest in Indianapolis in this project as the northeast areas are beginning to see extensive damage from EAB infestations.

After its initial launch in the Greater Lafayette area, the N.A.B.B. program will be available to County Extension Educators and Master Gardeners throughout Indiana.

EAB Distribution Map (click to enlarge)

Purdue Master Gardener EAB self-study

Quiz from MG Self Study Online (click to enlarge)

Master Gardeners who are interested in learning more about EAB are encouraged to complete the Purdue Master Gardener EAB self-study course, which is located online at extension.entm.purdue.edu/EAB/index.php?page=industries/selfstudy. There are two quizzes to take online and upon completion, the participant will be able to print out a certificate that can be turned in for 2 hours of advanced training credit.

For more information on N.A.B.B. or the EAB self-study course, please contact Melissa Shepson (mshepson@purdue.edu, 765-494-0997) or Jodie Ellis (ellisj@purdue.edu, 765-494-0822).

(Contributed by Rosie Lerner, Purdue University MG State Coordinator)

Online Master Gardener Trainings

Monday, June 28th, 2010

When I took on the position as the Statewide Coordinator of the OSU Extension Master Gardener Program, plans for an online version of the Master Gardener training course were already in the works.  Although I had taught in a traditional classroom setting for 12 years (8 years as a graduate student teaching assistant at the University of Maryland and 4 years as an Assistant Professor of Biology at Fordham University), I had no experience with an online course – as either a teacher or a student.  Thus, I cautiously approached the idea of online education.

In an online class, how would I know if my students were learning?  Unlike scientific research, where it can take several years (or more) for you to gauge whether or not your ideas and experiments worked as expected, students let you know – each and every day you teach – whether or not you are doing a good or a bad job as an instructor.  I love this instantaneous feedback.  If I could not read and react to the expression on my students’ faces, as I present a new concept or teach a new lesson, how could I tailor the class to meet their needs?  Could teaching and learning in an online course be as dynamic as interactions in a traditional classroom?  I did not know the answer to these questions as I began to develop an online version of the Oregon Master Gardener training course, but I was sure that I would find out in short measure.

Across the nation, Extension Master Gardener training usually involves several weeks of coursework, followed by a volunteer internship or volunteer practicum.  Usually, the coursework is offered during the week (e.g. in Oregon, only 2 of 28 counties offered Master Gardener training on a weekend or in the evening, in 2009).  Offering classes on a weekday has been a successful model for recruiting and training a highly qualified corps of Master Gardener volunteers – as evidenced by the over 94,000 Master Gardeners in the United States, who together donated over 5 million hours of volunteer service in 2009!

Nonetheless, it is not difficult to imagine that the timing of Extension Master Gardener trainings precludes many potential participants from enrolling.  Folks may be interested in becoming a Master Gardener, but are not able to take the time away from work or family to attend on-site trainings.  Instead, they may wait until their children are older and/or their work schedules are more flexible to become a Master Gardener.  As a result, the pool of eligible Master Gardener volunteers narrows.  In Oregon, for example, over 75% of volunteers were 56 years of age or older in 2007 (Miller and Langellotto, unpublished data).  Online Master Gardener trainings are one way to broaden the availability of this popular Extension program to a wider array of constituents.

In Oregon, I helped to relaunch the online Master Gardener training course in 2008 (a previous course had been taught, on a limited scale, a few years earlier).  The course consists of 12 lessons, including: botany; soils, fertilizers and compost; entomology; plant pathology; sustainable landscaping; herbaceous ornamental plants; container gardens; pesticides, IPM; woody landscape plants; history and mission of the Master Gardener Program in Oregon.  The course contains narrated Power Point lectures, optional homework assignments and quizzes, pdf versions of their textbook readings, and supporting materials and web links.  Assignments, in particular, are structured to give students hands-on experience with particular topics.  For example, students are invited to test their soil texture, identify and investigate a ‘mystery plant’ in their backyard, and to assess their landscape’s sustainability score (Figure 1).  The course also provides opportunities for interaction via a moderated discussion board and optional online chats.

Figure 1.  Example of an assignment (only part of which is displayed) for the Oregon online Master Gardener course. Students must take a Landscape Sustainability checkup, and report on their cumulative and categorical scores.  Students are then asked to consider how they might improve their scores, in categories where they did not score so high.

Two options are available for the online course.  Those who are interested in the information provided by the Master Gardener training course can take the class, without completing a volunteer internship or practicum, to earn a Certificate of Home Horticulture.  Those who are interested in earning a Master Gardener badge must take the class AND successfully complete a volunteer internship or practicum.  This volunteer work is completed at a county Extension office, and under the supervision of their local Extension agent.  Thus, it is impossible to simply take the online course to become a Master Gardener, as the volunteer practicum is an essential component of the training that Master Gardeners receive.  Individuals must take the course, pass the final exam, AND complete their volunteer internship.  In Oregon, the volunteer internship consists of 40-70 hours of answering gardening questions that come into the ‘Plant Clinic’ desk or hotline, educating or assisting others in a demonstration or community garden, or on another OSU Extension-approved volunteer activity.

Thus far, the course has largely been successful. Over 256 students have enrolled in the course since September of 2008.  Geographically, these students came from 22 of Oregon’s 36 counties, 16 additional states (AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, MA, MD, MO, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TX, VA, UT, WA), one US territory (Puerto Rico) and 7 countries (Canada, Democratic Republic of Georgia, Denmark, Mexico, Myanmar, South Korea, Trinidad)!  Of these 256 students, 131 have earned Certificates of Home Horticulture and 65 have gone on to complete their volunteer internship to earn their Master Gardener badge.  The completion rate of 77% (190 of 256 students enrolled successfully completed the course) is on par with what we see in Oregon, for on-site trainings (72% in 2008, but includes both the coursework AND successful completion of a volunteer internship/practicum).

Many students share positive remarks about the course.  Veteran Master Gardeners, who have been assigned to mentor an online student, have remarked that they especially enjoyed how the discussion board allowed for extended and in-depth conversation on a topic  – something that isn’t always possible when instructors come to present a topic at an on-site training.  And, although I didn’t expect that I would enjoy teaching an online course, I have to admit that it is fun interacting with such a diverse group of students, and that I find comfort in being able to take my time to answer a question.

Oregon is not the first or the only state to offer an online or distance version of a course for Extension Master Gardener certification or recertification.  Check out the courses offered by these states (or, if I inadvertently omitted your state’s online training course, please feel free to add to the list, in the comments section!).

Of course, the classroom component of Master Gardener training is only one part of the equation.  As we increase the availability of Master Gardener training to those who can not attend classes during the week, so too must we increase volunteer opportunities for those who can not volunteer in an Extension office during the week.  In Oregon – weekend, evening and distance volunteer options are available in select counties.  These options include:  staffing plant clinic booths at weekend farmer’s markets and other events, weekend volunteerism in demonstration and community gardens, fielding and answering gardening questions that have been submitted online (under the supervision of a trained mentor and/or Extension agent), and working with faculty and staff on projects that can be completed from home.

My foray into online education has been scary, eye-opening, fun and challenging – often, all at the same time!  However, given the ubiquity of the internet and general interest in the Extension Master Gardener Program, it is likely that online trainings will only increase in popularity.  Delivering online courses with the same high standards that we demand in on-site classes, and coupling course content with hands-on experiences (via assignments AND the volunteer internship/practicum) will help to ensure that online delivery of Master Gardener trainings continues to foster well-trained and enthusiastic Master Gardeners who are poised to make positive contributions in their communities.