Column: Students of agriculture facilitate learning through collaboration

Sometimes the complexity of digital technology can confound older people.

Sometimes the complexity of digital technology can confound older people. This problem was identified by the producer’s Advisory Committee set up to guide the development of the Applied Sustainable Ranching (ASUR) program at the local University.

Managing this issue even challenges some of us “instructors” who facilitate the students learning and produce curricular materials (readings, videos etc. usually online.)

Connecting various industry experts via conference call, webinar, or in person all needs to be co-ordinated with in person meetings of students, instructors, speakers, panelists, and producers is a weekly challenge.

Online learning, which is about 70 to 80 per cent of the students’ work, needs to be reinforced by the face-to-face gatherings, so the learning experts tell us.

So that is how this program is designed. Students stay at home on their ranch or farm or are billeted on a ranch if they so wish.

A seminar, field trip, panel discussion or student group presentations happen on campus almost every Friday. Those that can travel to Williams Lake or another Cariboo place can come in person.

Those that can’t come in person connect via video conference or telephone. On their computers they can see the presentations given in the Thompson Rivers University classroom.

Here is where the students come in. We have all experienced problems with power point presentations, for example. The students have learned to be good with this hardware and with the programs online.

They are able to help make the software and hardware work. This so great and they make the point (my point) about the usefulness of the young to the older generation. Of course the university’s information technology personnel are unbelievably helpful.

One student is serving as a staff person to a major agriculture industry organization. Another is providing social media marketing services to the program.

The business model of the program requires that 10 foreign students will have to be recruited to make the budget work. Foreign students pay a much higher tuition fee.

Our ability to target certain places in the world for recruiting students is key to the success of the program.

Empowered students can invigorate the learning environment and facilitate their learning and those of us that receive “extension services” through the university/industry collaboration.

David Zirnhelt is a member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association and chair of the advisory committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching program which started at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake this January.

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