How Can I Compare Online PDC’s ?

apples_aint_applesThere are now lots of online Permaculture Design Courses [PDC’s] on the internet.  Some are audio-visual based, some provide a text book, some have components that are residential, some a blend of various approaches. Some are run in ‘online class-rooms’, others are individually mentored (as we do), most have a group discussion space.  Some are flexible enough to be able to be a module of a face-to-face course. Some schools recognise prior learning from other related courses (this is known as RPL. We allow this and we are also part of a hybrid learning system).

To helpwith your  online pdc comparison and to decide which school to choose, we have developed a mind map (see below) of many of the issues you may wish to consider before you choose. If you have any questions please feel free to ask from our contacts page.

Below is a list of some of the issues in the mind map. We encourage you to watch the developments over the coming months in our discussions with other P.D.C [Permaculture Design Course] teachers. You can also view the her the course outline and other information. PDC-comparison-mind-map
Online PDC’s – Comparison Criteria

Compare Student Care

  • Is there capacity for the the school to accommodate changes in the participants learning needs? (we do, we allow participants to apply for a period of leave or to bring in a study buddy).
  • Given that online connection is often the first time people find out about permaculture, does the experience encourage life-long learning and building social networks? Does it encourage the student to make contacts with local people, community projects and businesses? Does it offer a range of homework options that are social, physical and or theoretical? (we aim to do this)
  • Is there the option to participate as an individual, with a study buddy or as a group?  Is there flexibility to leave the student group and continue as an Individual if the group decides to disband? How do participants demonstrate competency as a group? (We provide guidelines to help manage a happy study group and provide individual flexibility.)

Online Delivery of Course Materials

Compare Online Mode of delivery

  • Is there a range of course delivery options? Can participants choose a print form or must they have a computer at all stages of the learning experience? [We offer that participants can print for personal use. Some people prefer to read from a kindle to the computer screen. The Course is broken into 20 small sized files suitable for most computer systems but not dial-up. Some people are still on dial-up so we offer files posted out on USB or DVD].
  • Does the school offer skype, video, dropbox, weblinks?
    [We accept submissions by video and other forms but we do not supply skype or live webinars for tutorial purposes]
What are the non-digital options?
  • written material (book form) See Also: capacity to print e-material for own use
  • written responses (old-style correspondence, photos, posted or faxed)
  • non electronic response – eg. post, face-to-face option
    [we provide print, post and face-to-face]
Digital options?
  • Is the course material delivered by electronic hardware (eg. CD, thumb-drive)
  • Is there the option to read online or download?
  • Does the participant require a minimum bandwidth and computer equipment or software? Is the course structured in a modular fashion with minimalist design?
  • Are there simple text & images? Are video plugins optional extras? See Also: online reading Is the course core audio/video based? Can DVD’s can be purchased so bandwidth limitations are less restrictive? Is open source software encouraged so participants are not forced to buy software?  Is there capacity to print e-material for own use? See Also: written material (book form).
  • Is there digital Literacy advice? [we offer tech support by email]
Timelines and modes of engagement
  • Is the timeline synchronous (where participants have to work at the same pace?) [not at Permaculture Visions only when you elect to be part of a study group]
  • Are live Webinars recorded for self-service? [We do not provide webinars, but the notes enable self-directed catchup for individuals within a group.]
  • Is the time-lime asynchronous (where participants may set their own time frame)? [Ours is self-paced within the limit of 2 years.]
  • Are there Q and A by email or by forums? [we supply a personal tutor and group mailing list we also regularly review our study notes to improve clarity]
  • Does Q and A include any one-on-one voice or skype tutoring if required? [we supply one-on-one by email not voice because we are based in Australia in an unusual time zone, and we speak an unusual dialect.  Also, we like time to think about our answers].
  • Is Q and A addressed by webinar or email or forums?  Does this include any one-on-one voice or skype tutoring if required? Is the skype voice given in a variety of time zones, is the language accent, regional jargon differences acceptable? [Our language is not acceptable so we answer only by email. Our answers are put back into the system to reduce confusion for future students.   We are happy to clarify further when people need more information.

Means to demonstrate competency

  • Is there choice and a variety of ways for students to demonstrate competency? [We allow people to choose a task that is relevant to them, all the tasks prepare them for their  final task of a permaculture design].
  • Is there also flexibility for the participants to work as a group and a way to demonstrate individual competency with the group? [we allow group learning and offer flexibility for a participant to leave their student group and continue as an Individual.

Assessment criteria

  • how are submissions by students assessed?
    [at Permaculture Visions, your tutor assesses and recommends you to our board for certification. The beauty of homework by email is that we have an excellent record of your work and can be clear about our requirements to attain your certificate].
  • Is there a student appeals process? [Our board accepts appeals and feedback to with an aim to improve the quality of our project]

Student feedback process

  • What is the Student-Trainer Relationship Standard.  Are there maximum waiting targets? [at Permaculture Visions we ask that you allow up to 7 working days for a response we will also ask former students to act as references for you to ask about their experience when requested by you].
  • Q and A processes [at Permaculture Visions you can write to your tutor and/or the technical support team]

Skill level of PC Tutors

  • Is the school known for regularly working in Permaculture design and installation? [we regularly publish our work and you can see former designs on our website]
  • Does the school offer working models open public? [Here is Permaculture Visions main demonstration site]
  • Is the office integrated with a good permaculture site? [our administrative office and tutor’s offices are active permaculture sites.]
  • Are the works of the tutors accessible to be viewed [Here is some of our tutors work]
  • Does the school accept multiple climate zone capacity as mandantory part of PDC standard? [we teach and support graduates in over 50 countries, we understand the vastly different strategies required for world-wide permaculture designs]
  • Is the School is in good standing? if with whom? ..
  • Does the school have a good reputation of graduates?  Are there referals from previous graduates? [Permaculture Visions puts out a general request to graduates who may wish to offer referals. you can also read some here]
  • Is there capacity to learn from within the student community, forum or in groups? We have a private student mailing list and a facebook page where students can contribute.
  • Is there a list of recommended videos, books, magazines other all answers are built in to the evolving course notes to reduce frequency of future questions? See Also: Delivery of Course Materials costs and payment plans does this include certification? a lot of free courses do not include tutoring or certification  including adequate manuals, targeted external links & further readings?  Generates evaluation design to satisfy various national and international standards including higher institute standards and APT? Permaculture Visions is developing an online self-evaluation test.

Resilient documentation in use?

  • Does the school support open source software? [Permaculture Visions uses only open source software]
  • Can be externally reviewed? by whom? [Permaculture Visions is part of the Permaculture Australian Association and happily accept their standards and guidelines. They regularly review their standards to match relevant APT standards but are not affiliated because of the burden of additional cost on their students in third-world countries.]

Cooperation with the International Permaculture community

  • Is the curriculum and learning designs shared? [You can read Permaculture Visions outlines  and view their first course chapter ETHICS for free]
  • Is there community evaluation of student projects? [Permaculture Visions link to their graduates projects here]
  • open sourcing any materials? [We supply a lot of free information on our sites]
  • offering scholarships and opportunities to trade? curriculum is validated by governing bodies such as National Permaculture Associations and other bodies.

Resilience of the ‘School’

  • Is there a supply of skilled teachers? (Good tutors are hard to find, we employ previous graduates with experience, patience and a creative passion.)
  • a realistic budget for student needs? (Many of our students are from remote places so we keep the fees low to cater for these very interesting participants).
  • Capacity for the School to endure physical, economic OR social catastrophe? [Permaculture Vision has low financial risk and so is economically resilient]
  • Does the school ‘walk the talk’? [see our 20 year old demonstration site review]
  • People-care: Are the workers treated well? [we are a family owned business, we like to think we care about each other :>]
  • Earth care: Demonstration sites, EMS systems, Regional Engagement, Fair Share:  Shares surplus revenue with others,  Regional sharing of resources? [We donate to a lot of community projects and permaculture convergences.]

Quality of materials

  • Is the content factual and referenced? [We supply data that is supported and cross referenced]
  • Is the course delivered in plain english with scientific methods simply explained? [we have a lot of photographs and illustrations to explain systems]
  • What is the updating policy? [our minimum updates are annual]
  • Are the Graduates of High Quality? [Our school has a good reputation and standing with other PDC teachers]
  • Are graduates acknowledged and supported by PDC school? [look here at our support records]
  • is there an Official register of graduates? [look here]
What Permaculture Visions offers:

Permaculture Visions does all of these features except we do not provide live webinars or video plugins, we direct you to a wealth of informative videos online, but we do not create our own videos or provide skype or other spoken delivery.  We do sometimes run face-to-face courses for local people to integrate the two modes of learning and have affiliated teachers in other regions who run parts of their courses with our support.

Our biggest strength is our individual mentoring, our skill in teaching by email, our hoard of information, artworks, photos, designs and collections of real-life stories and implementation experience.  Another feature of our delivery is that every thing is documented. The delivery and the student responses are all documented and this builds the resources (institutions and participants resources) and makes them able to be searched in detail, accessed at a later date and cross referenced.

Permaculture Visions Rule of Thumb

Here is a good rule of thumb about whether our course would work for you?
1. Do like to read and look at pictures?  If you don’t like reading, then Permaculture Visions isn’t the course for you, sorry.
2. Do you like time to think or test something out for yourself and then respond?
3. Are you able to be self motivated? Or can you get a study buddy or group to work through this course with you?
If you can say yes to these three key points you will enjoy working with us and we will be proud to help you achieve your goals and give you skills and support for future adventures in Permaculture.