Spreading the web of learning

Recognised as a learning establishment of repute since the heady days of the Scottish Enlightenment, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) has evolved into a truly world-class centre of education for the 21st century. Offering a huge range of courses across the organisation’s four Gardens, it engages young and old in everything from Teddy Bears’ Picnics - with a hint of ecology - for early years school children, to the MSc in plant biodiversity. The breadth and levels of courses are second to none.

An important element of what RBGE offers, however, is that classes are not restricted to the four RBGE sites. Residential summer schools and outreach to schools and universities throughout the UK all add to the diversity available to students from all walks of life. Yet, while certificates in practical horticulture, botany, and botanical illustration are all now being offered at home and overseas, RBGE aims to reach yet further. “All this is great – if you can get to the Gardens or one of the centres where our courses are being taught,” commented Head of Education Dr Greg Kenicer. “But, we believe there is scope to do even more. That is why we have been working towards providing outreach for a truly global audience”.

This has been achieved by expanding PropaGate Learning – RBGE’s online learning environment. Built around the Moodle online learning system, it is flexible enough to allow courses to be anything from short stand-alone “episodes” to much more involved programmes of study.

“Our first course to migrate on to Propagate was the highly popular RHS Level 2 certificate in horticulture”, added Dr Kenicer. “This has been taught at the Garden in its many incarnations for decades and, over the past 10 years was offered as a correspondence course. This summer sees it released as a fully revamped and updated online version.

“Another new option you’ll see in our online courses is ‘blended learning’, a chance to merge the best of both worlds. With blended learning, students have the opportunity to come to the Gardens, be inspired by the places and the people and receive an introduction to the course over a long weekend or week. After this, they work through exercises, assignments and discussion groups at home through PropaGate, then reconvene later in the course. We have already welcomed our first blended learning students who spent a highly stimulating fortnight in the Garden for their introduction to our Diploma in Botanical Illustration. That first course will be followed shortly by the Diploma in Garden History.”

More information about the range of courses on offer at RBGE can be found at www.rbge.org.uk/education

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)