International training on greenhouse production using an online platform
A Greenhouse Training Online extension program was initiated in 2015 at the University of Florida (UF). The objective was to deliver bilingual professional development training on horticultural science for US and international greenhouse and nursery growers, many of whom have limited access to formal training in horticulture. Three courses related to greenhouse and nutrient management were delivered in English and Spanish using an eLearning platform during 2015 and 2016, where each course consisted of eight pre-recorded lessons and associated assignments over four weeks. Interactive feedback was provided via e-mail or chat sessions, with a final course evaluation survey. A total of 742 students enrolled and 598 graduated (81%). A certificate of completion from the university was highly valued by participants. Participants included 115 (19%) international, from Africa, Latin America, Asia, and Australasia, and 57 (16%) took lessons in Spanish. Over 85% of participants were industry professionals in production and other roles, and 51% indicated that their highest level of horticulture training was either learned on the job, or in high school. Technical challenges included completion of registration, lack of an e-mail address, and slow internet connection. The proportion of students rating their technical knowledge in the course topics as very good to expert increased from 25 to 75% following completion of the courses. Asynchronous delivery, specific deadlines in a short course, a course fee, interaction with instructors, and a marketing plan increased adoption and completion rates. We have added new courses on weed management and plant pathology and are actively looking for grower association and education partners to expand this program.
Freyre, R., Pearson, B.J. and Fisher, P.R. (2018). International training on greenhouse production using an online platform. Acta Hortic. 1205, 293-298
eLearning, extension, nursery, professional development