CLONAKILTY Agricultural College and Teagasc West Cork have come together to deliver a part-time Green Certificate course.
‘Many students come to us equipped in farming know-how, says course lecturer Pat Flannery. ‘Invariably, though, they get great benefit from honing their skills and knowledge on the course.’
Pat says the pandemic has highlighted the value of social interaction in learning and this will be prioritised further into the future.
‘I have seen first-hand how students value being together and interacting, particularly after it has been denied to them,’ he explained. ‘There is huge value in it for them, both during the course and also in terms of long-term connections and friendships. This is a hugely important benefit of completing the Green Certificate. Farming can be a one person operation, so having a long term connection with your course participants is invaluable.’
The course’s blended approach also includes remote learning. It allows training without students having to travel. On particularly busy occasions for students, it allows them to attend without having to even leave their tractor seat, said Pat.
‘This approach embraces technology. The facility to deliver and access classes through laptops and phones is valuable,’ he said. ‘Managing this, of course, is key. The extent and timing of this approach is important. It work best as one of a number of approaches.’
An important element of the evolving course is facilitating students to link in with the course in their own time. Material such as videos and notes is being made available for students to access.
‘Another key component of the course is support,’ Pat believes. ‘This can be in the form of person-to-person contact or online. An email may be very helpful at one point, or a zoom call at another.’
Early parts of the course concentrate on the more technical parts of farming. Servicing a tractor is as important as ever; keeping and having a grasp of farm accounts is a priority; teasing out farm safety is also prioritised.
‘As the course progresses we will look at developing the management of the farm. Removing the mystery from a fertiliser plan is helpful,’ added Pat. ‘Setting out a succession and inheritance plan can be very useful. Students are facilitated in putting together a farm plan, which will invariably be tweaked by themselves after they move on from the course, but it can trigger their interest.’
Students are also involved in the design and delivery of the course and there is an early survey in the course which looks to gather students’ views on how the course is progressing.