Innovation in Online Noncredit Teaching (2014)

Oregon Master Naturalist Program

Jason O’Brien, Aaron Senecal, Marian Ladenburg, Ryan Creason, Chris LaBelle, Bridget Egan - College of Forestry, OSU Extension Service, Professional and Continuing Education

This online continuing education course allows residents to learn about Oregon's natural history and sustainable natural resources. They learn the natural cycles and physical processes that have shaped Oregon's landscape, as well as the sustainable land-use decisions made by land managers.

Along the way, participants develop the leadership and technical skills necessary to volunteer as conservation and environmental educators in their local communities.

This program has had a big impact on its audience. More than 200 people have completed the online course, and 80 percent of them felt it met or exceeded their expectations. Most say they will use the online course to assist them in their volunteer work, and three out of four said they would recommend it to their friends.

This e-learning course, the first online Master Naturalist program in the country, was designed to give participants an immersive, uninterrupted learning experience, allowing them to access image feeds, slide shows and videos right from the main interface. It should serve as a model for Extension Services nationwide struggling to reach larger audiences with less money and fewer staff.