Agricolleges International now runs eight courses on the Brightspace platform, which are split into short courses and one year certificates.
The first one year course Agricolleges International has deployed is the National Certificate in General Agriculture, which launched in April 2018. It is comprised of six modules consisting of either six or eight units.
In order to overcome the infrastructure and funding limitations that have dogged traditional agricultural colleges, key practical elements of the course are performed remotely.
“Students are given the theory and a task on the platform, like taking a soil sample. They then have to perform the task within the area around them. This can be in their own back garden. They do not need to go to a farm or a practical destination. They then record a video or take photos of the steps they took in performing the task which they upload to Brightspace. This is called a Remote Practical,” explained Espach.
This remote practical is complemented by a two-week on-site practical, in which students travel to one of Agricolleges International’s practical destinations to learn a number of skills, such as servicing farming machinery, working with animals and visiting nurseries. They see everything they have learned in theory, translated into practice.
The short courses offered by Agricolleges International are split into three different bands: introductory, fundamentals, and applications.
The introductory courses cover the basics of agribusiness, animal production, and crop production. Fundamentals courses are crop or product-specific, such as dairy production or avocado farming. Applications is the practical element, where students attend a farm for a week-long practical course.
“The nice thing about Brightspace is that we have been able to write our remote practical courses in a way that is easy for our students to understand what they need to submit and when. This has been life-changing for agricultural education in South Africa” said Espach.
“Even the accreditation body AgriSETA, when they came for the first inspection of our facility, said ‘but you can never teach agriculture online’. When we showed them a demo of how using ePortfolios we can make a video clip and submit it on the platform, and in seconds the two are matched, they could not believe the functionality. They had never seen anything like it,” Espach continued.