Lee Raye, our academic writing tutor has recently signed up as a learner on the Certificate in the Principles of Garden Planning, Establishment, Maintenance (formerly the RHS Level 2 Principles of Garden Planning, Establishment and Maintenance) here at the Academy for Distance Learning. Here is the first of a series of blog posts on their experience.

Wow, what an exciting course! I signed up looking for a challenge, and there is so much to learn. Luckily, Susan (the course tutor) is really supportive. She is patient even when I make mistakes – e.g. getting cultivars and hybrids confused, and she has so much knowledge of the topic. The assignments are great too. There are a series of exercises to complete for each lesson. It seems like lots of work at first, but it’s really great for helping you to actually learn the information in the lesson rather than just understand it.

One of the reasons I signed up is that I wanted to stretch myself, and the course has really helped with that. Already I can categorise different plants I see into their basic groups (angiosperms and gymnosperms, monocots and dicots). My favourite part of the course is that for every assignment, you learn to identify fourteen new plants. I was a bit worried about this at first, but I went for a walk around the local park, and easily found fourteen. I feel my knowledge has improved significantly. It’s amazing to be able to walk along and be able to name so many of the plants I see. Instead of “big daisy, purple thing, funny looking dandelion” it’s “ox-eye daisy, self-heal, ragwort”.

It was a strange feeling to hand in the first assignment online. I am usually the one marking assignments. I got my mark and feedback returned within the week, and Susan gave me some really great tips for improving for the next assignment.

One of the best things about online learning compared to traditional education is that the relationship between tutors and learners is much more relaxed. Because distance learners are usually studying part time, and have jobs elsewhere, there is much more respect on both sides. Susan is a true expert in horticulture, but she is also on a first name basis with learners, and she is so much more approachable than teachers at schools or colleges. She understands that distance learners only have so many hours a week to devote to the course, and it’s comforting to think I can send her a private message if I get stuck.

If you want to take this online gardening course along with me, you can sign up here.

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