The “Innovative Sustainable Forest Management Education in the Asia-Pacific Region Project”, initiated by APFNet, was officially launched in 2013 with its overall goal to improve the capacity in Sustainable Forestry Management (SFM). The first phase of this project was completed by 2016 and embodied an innovative pedagogical approach to convey knowledge on SFM and related issues to various forestry stakeholders through a combination of online learning, short-term onsite training, and community sharing of experiences.
Five universities, including the University of British Columbia (UBC), Beijing Forestry University (BFU), University of Melbourne (UM), University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), have worked together to develop the first series of online courses. In 2015, five core courses were created and made accessible online free of charge as open education resource (https://apfecm.forestry.ubc.ca/sfmonline-courses/).
Towards phase II
Building upon the success of phase I, the project is entering its second phase that will give priority to developing new online courses on tropical forest management and upgrade the existing courses. The ultimate goal of the initiative is to create credential programs with both a Certificate and a Master’s degree, utilising all online courses developed in the first and second phase.
To support this transition, the Forestry Online Course Development Workshop took place on July 30 to August 3 2018 at the University of British Columbia with the aim to cover many important topics that would help course development teams to create valuable and meaningful online courses. The workshop was built upon the essential need for participants to understand the broader curriculum goals of the online course program, as well as to help develop the curriculum map for all the courses while incorporating best practices for online learning in coordination with UBC’s Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology – from teaching and learning approaches to the selection of learning technologies. The workshop also enabled the standardisation of course structure as well as the establishment of a timeline for deliverables.
Incorporating new technologies
Participants of the workshop also had the opportunity to meet, collaborate and share experiences in teaching and online course development with colleagues from partner universities across the Asia-Pacific. In particular, discussions about what technologies and platforms to integrate to the project were fruitful in orienting the phase II of the online courses. During the workshop, participants were introduced to the basics of film making, orienting them towards a better understanding of content production. Emerging educational technologies were also presented such as 360° video, a technology that would enable virtual field trip or lab simulation.
The seminar also focused on various pedagogies, assessment strategies and available learning technologies to support online course development. With phase II of the initiative, contributors to the program will move towards the use a new platform – Canvas – for delivering online courses. While Canvas is more user-friendly, it also possesses many advanced tools to support course delivery and student management. It allows will allow the program to offer online courses to everyone who wishes to take part in them.
The Forestry Online Course Development Workshop thus provided AP-FECM partners with tools to think and approach phase two of the Online Forestry Program. Thinking back on what has been achieved so far and looking at what could be improved with regards to the existing materials, this seminar was the opportunity to align future goals and assure a smooth collaboration between all of the phase two contributors. Although a few questions will need to be addressed along the way, the workshop was successful in launching the Forestry Online Course towards its next stage.