The effectiveness of Internet or online training was compared to traditional classroom training in the Master Gardener Core Course/Horticulture 1003 at the University of Minnesota, St. Paul. Overall horticultural knowledge was significantly greater for both groups in posttest results, and there was no significant difference in horticultural knowledge between the two groups. Online learners did not perceive the lack of instructor face-to-face interaction to be as important as did classroom participants. Online learners also placed a greater value on flexibility of class time and no commuting. Both groups spent approximately 75 hours on the class. However, 20% of classroom participants' time was commuting. Online training was an effective method for teaching Master Gardeners in this study.
Communication is a critical issue for consumer horticulture specialists and extension agents. They must communicate effectively with the public interested in gardening, with Extension Master Gardener (EMG) volunteers and with other scientists. A workshop was held at the Annual Conference of the American Society for Horticultural Science on 22 July 2013 in Palm Desert, CA, with the intent of sharing tips and techniques that facilitated consumer horticulture and EMG programming. Presentations focused on communication. One program leader reported on the North Carolina Master Gardener web site, which integrates an online volunteer management system (VMS) with widely available web tools to create one-stop shopping for people who want to volunteer, get help from volunteers, or support volunteers at both the county and state level. Another program used the state VMS to house videos providing continuing education (CE) training required for EMG volunteers. This training is available 24 hours per day and 7 days per week. Agents created the videos by recording live presentations with widely available, screen capture software and a microphone. Features that make the social media site Pinterest a strong tool for gathering together focused programming resources and professional collaboration were outlined. Finally, the use of a compact, subirrigated gardening system that uses peat-based potting mix was suggested as a means to simplify communication with new urban gardeners and address their unique gardening issues.