Ask the Expert: Leveraging Tech to Teach
Leveraging Tech to Teach
Last week we had conversations with experts on introducing AgTech in the classroom at an early age, which got us thinking about those more mature students of agriculture and how agriculture is being taught to adult learners using more technology. We talked with Ashley Coffin, Program Manager at Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture’s Extended Learning (EL) Department and Dr. Frank Schenkels of Fundy Veterinarians in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada.
“Grow your mind; Online Courses” is what you will see on Dalhousie's Faculty of Agriculture Extended Learning site. Here you can enroll in a variety of online certificates and courses ranging from Beekeeping to Bulk Milk Grader’s Certifications and everything in between.
Ashley Coffin, Program Manager for Dal Ag Extended Learning, is responsible for the High Performance Herd Certificate and took the time to speak to us about how Dal Ag’s course has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a very intimate and hands-on course that has both an online and in person component.
This certificate brings 10 students together each time the course is run for a series of 3 four month modules that combine both online technology in Brightspace and an in-person session.
“This provides an opportunity for students to get together to apply what they have learned and have discussions on how they will make changes to their farm”. Says Ashley.
Dr. Frank Schenkels teaches several courses through the Dalhousie Agriculture Campus including the Nutrition and Herd Health Management course for the Technology Diploma in Business Management specializing in Dairy Enterprise Management. He also teaches the Module on Dairy Reproduction for the High Performance Herdsperson Certificate through the Department of Extended Learning.
Dr. Frank spoke to us from his truck while driving between vet calls. “The course is designed for herdsperson, and consists of 3 big modules: reproduction and nutrition, and animal care. I teach the repro module.” he says.
Dal Extended Learning handles the online sessions through Brightspace technology where participants read through course related articles, complete assignments, and take quizzes; all over the course of 8 weeks leading up to a one and a half day application session with Dr. Frank on the study farm.
It is on-farm, near the end of the course, where students need to identify what they would change on the study farm and on their own farm and why, based on what they have learned in the online modules.
When we asked Dr. Frank what learnings students most often take from this course, he said,
“Students come up with actionable changes that improve heat detection, better monitor breeding performance and different approaches to veterinarian care.” This teaches students how to interpret the data from whatever software their farm is using. “We have worked with dairy producers that use everything from paper and pen to farms with top notch software such as Lactanet, Dairy Comp305, Delpro , T4C and Dairy Plan software.”
“After the course, the students are able to analyze their own farms records and identify which parts of their farm they were weak or strong in. Most importantly they are able to detect and effectively troubleshoot the bottlenecks in their management practices.”
To sum it up, Frank told us, “Farmers want to know what they need to know, and they don’t necessarily care about the rest of it. This course teaches that. There is a substantial market for this kind of specialized education”.
The final course in this certificate is Dairy Cow Care starting in October 2021 and will be taught by Dr. Shawn McKenna. Visit Dairy Cow Care for more information.
To learn more about Dalhousie Faculty of Agriculture’s Extended Learning High Performance Herd Certificate, feel free to contact Ashley Coffin at: firstname.lastname@example.org