In the last decade, and the last few years even, the number and type of ways of studying horticulture or learning more about gardening have become more prolific, and in some ways more confusing. Here we’ve unpicked what people mean by the different types of courses that are on offer. And hopefully this will help you weed your way through the right choice for you!
Check Out The Teacher!
The most important thing to understand when choosing a gardening course is a little bit about the teacher. Remember back to your days at school? You had the most fun, and probably did best at, subjects that were taught by teachers who had excellent credentials, AND you liked them. A good teacher or school, will also be happy to answer questions before you start the course.
Ask Other Students.
As with taking other courses, alumni students will tell you truth about their learning experiences. And horticultural courses are no exception. A really good test of whether a course is going to give you what you want is to ask someone who’s already done it.
Don’t be restricted by Geography or Transport. Our natural instinct when looking for a gardening course is probably to look in our local small ads, or local paper for evening classes, as this is traditionally how adult education has been advertised. This however limits you to the teaching talents of people within a 20 mile radius of your home probably. Whereas in fact, gardening experts and horticulturalists, by their very nature, are often located rurally or travel a lot to far corners of the world.
Don’t be confused by the term ‘distance learning’. Perhaps if you’re a little more adventurous you might do a search on google for distance learning gardening courses. Traditionally distance learning you think of as kind of dry and isolating, with lots of stuff to learn that you get sent through the post. (MyGardenSchool is only classified as distance learning in its broadest term. In that distance is no object. But you get all the benefits of a local adult education course – because you meet the students, and interact with your tutor in the ‘virtual classroom’.) So be open to distance learning gardening courses – but make sure you check they’re not just postal correspondence courses which are usually pretty hard going. (in fact statistically most people don’t ever complete their distance learning courses).
Know Your Own Objectives Do you know what you want to achieve before you sign up to your course? This is helpful to your teacher, whether you’re doing a beginners grow your own course, or a professional garden design course, or learning a new skill like beekeeping or henkeeping. It also helps if they know if you have any previous knowledge of the course you’re studying (at MyGardenSchool we encourage people to share this in the ‘virtual classroom’ right at the beginning of each course.)
Understand how much of your time it will take Remember you’re doing a gardening course because it’s fun, enriching, a learning experience and sometimes life-changing. The last thing you want to do is join a course that becomes a burden, because you don’t have the time to do what’s required. In fact, virtual learning is very flexible, as it’s geared up to suit you any time zone. But it’s a good idea to be clear about what commitment’s needed before you start.
Enjoy it! And ask the teacher as many questions as you like. At MyGardenSchool we are lucky enough to have attracted the best gardening teachers in the world. So don’t be shy – just make the most of the four weeks you spend with them! And wherever you choose to study – it’s a good idea to ask as much as you can. And interact with the class. The more you interact the more you learn!
Correspondence Gardening Courses: This is the traditional method of completing courses if you can’t attend in person. All course materials are posted to you. Assignment submissions can be posted or e-mailed. You can usually still e-mail or telephone for assistance regarding your course.
Online Gardening Courses : Online courses are often secondary to face to face courses – hubs where you can access all course materials through a website, and also complete interactive self-tests to enhance your understanding of ideas or identify potential weak areas in your knowledge. Assignment submissions can be done through online assignment submission system. The Royal Horticultural Society do online courses, but they don’t include video lectures or one to one tuition (in fact they are more aligned with correspondence courses).
E-Learning – Gardening : Similar to online courses, except all course materials and interactive Self Tests are mailed to you on a CD instead of accessed on the internet. Assignment submission is through the online assignment submission system.
Distance Gardening Courses: Distance learning really is a catch all for all of the above. Check with the organisation exactly what is involved. Again it is usually a form of one way communication – where information is ‘pushed’ to you – lacking the interactivity of a virtual or online gardening course.