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.
Karen J. Jeannette and Mary Hockenberry Meyer
Mary Hockenberry Meyer, Cynthia Haynes, Denise Ellsworth, Sarah Ellis Williams, Celeste Welty, and Karen Jeannette
The North Central Consumer Horticulture Integrated Pest Management Working Group developed an online learning module entitled, “Introduction to Diagnostics for Master Gardener Volunteers: Approaches to Plant Pest Diagnosis.” The module is online in the campus or learn section of eXtension and is composed of three parts: part 1 covers the difficulties in diagnosing plant problems; part 2 discusses how to gather the information necessary for the diagnostic process; and part 3 covers the Ohio State Fact Sheet, “20 Questions on Plant Diagnostics.” The self-paced module takes a minimum of 2 hours to complete, although participants have access to the information for 10 weeks. The module costs $10 and the income is distributed between the module author(s), the state which the Extension Master Gardener (EMG) is from, and eXtension. Within 11 months, 451 people purchased the training. Participants reported a higher comfort and knowledge level of diagnostics after taking the training.
Mary H. Meyer, Rhoda Burrows, Karen Jeannette, Celeste Welty, and Aaron R. Boyson
The North Central Consumer Horticulture Working Group developed and distributed a 14-question survey to determine the confidence of north-central U.S. extension Master Gardeners (MGs) in making integrated pest management (IPM) recommendations and their use of IPM. The online survey was completed by 3842 MGs in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. MGs indicated they personally engaged in a range of IPM practices, including prevention, monitoring, cultural, and chemical controls. However, 81% indicated a need for more training in identifying diseases, and 65% say they needed more training in identifying insects. Only 16% indicated they had received advanced pest management training within the past 5 years. These MGs had higher mean scores for confidence, as well as prevention, monitoring, and cultural control and chemical awareness/control practices than those not participating in advanced training. Years of experience as an active MG and confidence in using IPM-related garden activities were correlated positively (r = 0.261). MGs with advanced pest management training were more confident in making IPM recommendations to other gardeners and were much more likely to use IPM practices than MG without advanced training.
Ellen M. Bauske, Gary R. Bachman, Lucy Bradley, Karen Jeannette, Alison Stoven O’Connor, and Pamela J. Bennett
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.