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MSBM/RADA Collaboration in Online Training of Extension Officers

RADA, the Rural Agriculture Development Authority, is a statutory body under the Ministry of Agriculture with principal responsibility for delivering extension services and rural development support to the Agriculture sector across Jamaica.

Over the last five (5) years RADA has invested significantly in equipping its field staff, including Extension Officers with ICTs to work remotely. Technical agricultural advice is most often required by farmers in the field, therefore as much of the requisite resources to provide such a service should also be available there as well. Additionally the quality of technical advice is dependent on the expertise of the Extension staff garnered through continuous learning and experience. The cost to continuously train Officers in Agricultural Extension is an increasing challenge; as in class training impacts severely on the available farmer contact time.

In keeping with it’s objectives under the Lifelong Learning for Farmers (L3F) Initiative, RADA is collaborating with MSBM, UWI in exploring Open Distance Learning (ODL) as a basis for a continuous learning strategy for content specific training for Extension Officers. The first Pilot course in Agri-business for Extension officers is being delivered to a cohort of twenty-three Extension Officers, drawn from every parish across Jamaica.

The course is being delivered online for 3 hours per week over 12 weeks and several techniques are being used to maximize the effectiveness of the online delivery:

  • The weekly 3 hour on-line sessions are facilitator-led using a web-conferencing platform for continuous integrated virtual interaction with the participants via Chat, Audio/Video and Presentation materials
  • The online session is augmented by enhanced eLearning content, accessible on-demand that makes use of embedded text and graphical elements to create a more interactive and varied learning experience that will help to encourage deeper learner engagement with the material.
  • The responsive eLearning content is accessible via desktop computers and mobile devices and designed for use over relatively low-bandwidth infrastructure
  • Participant learning is evaluated based on progressive self-paced assessment exercises integrated throughout the course, to measure whether learners are meeting the intended course objectives, and to provide guidance and feedback if they’re not

A half-day orientation workshop outlining course content and requirements and introducing participants to the technology platforms took place on Monday, January 24, 2017 at Mona School of Business & Management, UWI coordinated by Mr. Hartnell Campbell of RADA and the Course Facilitator, Dr. Clive Scott of MSBM.  The online course delivery continues until April 20th, when the participants and facilitators will have the opportunity to provide feedback and evaluate the effectiveness of the online learning experience.

According to Dr. Maurice McNaughton of MSBM, aside from addressing the specific needs of RADA for effective eLearning, the Pilot project provides an opportunity to explore and evaluate emerging technology mechanisms suitable for building a high quality, scalable online delivery model that can provide continuous, cost-effective, purpose-designed training for the public and private sectors.

Photo: Programme participants at the one day Orientation Work Shop at MSBM. Front row, from left: Commonwealth of Learning & RADA Committee Members, Owen Barrett, Hartnell Campbell and Roslyn Jackson.

 

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