Our relationship with D2L is long-standing, and the best part is that it continues to evolve and deepen. Our D2L account manager played a key role in helping us adapt our Brightspace environment to realize our goals.Sarah Masterton, vice president of engagement and learning
Taking Stock In A Changing World
Longwood Gardens is a site that inspires wonder in its guests, combining horticultural excellence with meticulous garden design to make each visit an unforgettable experience. But the organization’s vision extends far beyond the gardens’ boundaries: Longwood offers education in the art and science of cultivating plants to budding gardeners everywhere.
Sarah Masterton, vice president of engagement and learning, explains: “Education is at the heart of the Longwood mission. Now, more than ever, people need a connection to green space and the skills to care for the environment around us.”
“We want to encourage children to be curious about plants and their natural beauty and maintain that passion as they grow older. Horticulture is a huge revenue generator for the U.S., but many current horticulturists are due to retire in the next few years. Our goal is to replenish that pipeline with the horticulturists of the future. So, we’re always looking at how we engage with people of all ages to deepen our relationships with them through education.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic had a major impact on the number of people who could visit Longwood Gardens in person, the crisis also gave the organization’s education team an opportunity to reevaluate its approach. Longwood Gardens recognized the need to reach out to new learners in new ways.
Sarah Masterton says: “One of the silver linings of the pandemic shutdown is that it gave us the time to focus on reenvisioning our educational programs. We were able to be more innovative about what we offer and how we deliver it. With more people at home with free time, the pandemic was the ideal time to target new audiences located around the globe.”
Helping Learners Grow
Using D2L Brightspace, Longwood Gardens provides a range of open online courses that are available to any learner, anywhere in the world. During the global pandemic, the organization extended and adapted its online learning offerings to broaden its appeal.
Sarah Masterton says: “For example, we took our popular floral design course and pivoted to an entirely online delivery model, shipping flowers to people so they could participate from home. The flexibility of D2L Brightspace meant we could roll out these kinds of innovations quickly and easily.”
The result was an influx of new learners, many of whom were completely new to horticulture. “We had one lady who was on furlough from her job in the airline industry,” says Sarah Masterton. “She was inspired to join the course because she had just bought an orchid and was determined to keep it alive!”
Longwood Gardens worked with D2L’s Learning & Creative Services team to formulate a fresh learning strategy and harness the D2L Brightspace platform to put its plans into motion. Specifically, the organization developed a dashboard that displays insights from learners’ evaluations to support ongoing optimization of its course content.
Longwood Gardens is now rolling out flexible learning models, combining in-person and online delivery methods to encourage maximum engagement. The organization is also partnering with local businesses to provide unique learning experiences.
Sarah Masterton says: “Over the next two years, we’ll be focusing on offering all our professional programs asynchronously as well as synchronously, so that a global audience can access them. We’re also launching classes with local partners such as botanical cocktail making, always with a focus on horticultural education.”
Through Brightspace, we’ve learned that people find our educational platform really easy to use. We’ve received great feedback about how we’re varying our course content and testing knowledge in different ways—for example, by limiting the number of quizzes per course and introducing new types of widgets. In fact, 100% of participants in our floral design course said that the experience brought them more joy and confidence.Sarah Masterton, vice president of engagement and learning
Nurturing A Passion For Plants
By diversifying its education programs, Longwood Gardens is extending its reach across the world. The organization has seen enrollment in its courses increase significantly, both during the initial COVID-19 shutdowns and afterwards as the world began opening up once again.
Sarah Masterton adds: “The pandemic gave people the time to access free programming and be inspired, and we used D2L Brightspace to respond to that
new appetite for learning. We’re seeing a range of learners from all over the U.S. and even further afield access our content.”
Using evaluation tools embedded in D2L Brightspace to monitor learner experiences, Longwood can see that learners are responding positively to its recent educational innovations.
Looking to the future, Longwood Gardens is determined to stay at the forefront of changes in the horticultural landscape. Whether people visit the gardens in person or access resources online, the organization is committed to finding new ways to communicate its love of plants to all.
Sarah Masterton concludes: “Right now, we’re scanning the horizon for what the worlds of education and horticulture might look like in 2030, for example. Working with D2L, we’re bringing the virtual experience as close as possible to the experience of visiting our stunning gardens in person, creating new gateways to horticulture.”