A master gardener is a person who has studied gardening and horticulture extensively. She completes training devised by state extension agents. In return for the master gardener training, the trainee volunteers her expertise by training others or growing flowers and vegetable gardens in public places. Since it may be difficult for a master gardener student to attend workshops to acquire her master gardening certificate, state extension offices are beginning to offer online gardening training.
Each state that offers master gardener training online has its own set of requirements. Fees vary by state as well. Typically, online gardening training takes the student through a series of training modules that establish goals and objectives. Assigned readings and multi-media presentations provide the knowledge base for the student. The student takes quizzes as they work their way through each unit of study to demonstrate their knowledge. Additionally, the student may have hands-on tasks to complete in their garden or a community garden to further demonstrate their knowledge of horticulture. (See References 2)
While master gardener training is typically available in each county or region of the state, online training enables the extension teachers to reach a larger audience without stretching limited teaching resources. Online courses remain consistent from one part of the state to another. Online classes reach a larger audience because the students can easily fit the training into their schedule. As more master gardening students complete their coursework, their numbers increase the volunteer groups who take on civic gardening in the local communities.
In most instances, online master gardener students do spend some time in an actual classroom so that they can attain the hands-on knowledge necessary to growing plants. Guest speakers are often part of this portion of the course as well. In areas with limited resources, interactive television set up in a variety of locations across the state may provide a portion of the face-to-face classroom time. Students complete the remainder of their work from their home computer.
In order to do complete the coursework online, a master gardener student must be comfortable working with computers and have a basic understanding of email, web browsing and word processing programs. They need access to computer equipment that matches or exceeds the requirements established by the training program. Only rarely do programs require the latest operating systems. In addition to meeting minimal RAM and processor requirements, the computers of prospective students must have a recent version of an Internet browser, Java, Adobe Reader and Adobe Flash player, all of which are free to download.