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FIH and Onboarding FAQ for County Educators and MG Coordinators
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FAQ for County Educators and MG Coordinators

Re: Onboarding and “Level 1” or Master Gardener Volunteer Training

Updated 8/10/20

To address the Master Gardener Program’s Strategic Priorities (see Appendix 1), efforts are being made to address known issues within the program. The goal is to create multiple avenues for individuals to enter the Master Gardener program, broaden our audience of individuals engaging with horticulture (at local and statewide levels), and improve the experience of those wishing to be volunteers.

Two main things are changing:

  1. There will be a required, online course (using Canvas) for onboarding new volunteers. This serves as a way to provide orientation consistently across the state to incoming volunteers.
  2. There will be an online course (using Canvas) called “Foundations in Horticulture” (FIH) to provide horticulture content for incoming volunteers that choose to take the course (and in the future open to the general public). Note: this is not required for prospective volunteers to complete before enrolling in the Onboarding course.

Both of these are covered more thoroughly through the FAQs below.

Important Note: We are currently operating in the time of global pandemic, severely limiting our face-to-face programming and creating a need to continue to offer quality programming virtually. These changes take all of this into consideration and as we progress into 2021, there will likely be additional changes to these programs.

What is Canvas?
Canvas is an online learning management system (LMS) supported by UW-Madison. Participants will use Canvas to access and interact with course content. Participants will log in to their Canvas account to access the course. Learn more about Canvas.


Questions for ONBOARDING new MG Volunteers using Canvas:

Why the change?
There is a need within the MG program to decrease confusion, re-align policies and procedures, and to provide a centralized and consistent orientation experience for new volunteers. Volunteers are representatives of UW-Madison, Division of Extension and we must provide the necessary tools for them to be successful in their volunteer role.

Is the Onboarding course required for new volunteers?

Yes.

If internet connectivity issues exist, then reasonable accommodations will be made to provide the course content.

How does a prospective volunteer become a Master Gardener?

In this new model, a person interested in becoming a Master Gardener Volunteer must complete the Onboarding Canvas course which also includes successfully passing an exam that tests on basic horticulture knowledge and completing the volunteer requirements for Extension. Depending on that individual’s background, experience and horticulture knowledge, they may also choose to also enroll in any of the following options: local horticultural programming, the Foundations in Horticulture Canvas course, or self-study with the Foundations in Horticulture manual to improve their own horticulture skills and knowledge.  Note: Self study may not be an option until late 2021.  Details are still being finalized for Self Study. See Appendices 2 and 3.

What will this new Onboarding course do?
This course achieves three important steps in becoming a Master Gardener Volunteer in Wisconsin:

After successfully completing all steps of this onboarding experience, new volunteers will be awarded the Volunteer Agreement and be cleared to begin work on approved projects.

What will participants do in the Onboarding Canvas course?

In Canvas, participants will read, watch videos and interact with content that proceeds through several modules providing a comprehensive overview of the Master Gardener Program’s purpose, values and vision, the scope of the volunteer role, volunteer and continuing education requirements, the Online Reporting System (ORS) and scientific literacy. At the end of the course is the Master Gardener Horticulture Exam that participants must successfully complete to become certified.

When does the new Onboarding course take place?

Volunteers will be able to enroll in the course and take it at their own pace. It is a self-study course.

When will the new Onboarding course be implemented?

Winter 2020-2021Janury 1 through March 31, annually [updated November 2020]

How can we connect new volunteers to existing projects and certified MGVs in our local area if they are entering the program through a statewide online Onboarding course?

There are many opportunities to create these local connections and will be up to the local county educator, MG Coordinator, and possibly the local association.
Some ideas:

Questions for Foundations in Horticulture (FIH) using Canvas:

Why the change?
There is a need within the MG program to decrease confusion, increase diversity and improve program offerings. By separating the required Extension volunteer orientation from horticulture content knowledge, we can create a new model and expand our reach to more audiences. In FIH, we can create equitable access to the same university-based information, and create a guaranteed and viable curriculum. As we are currently facing a global pandemic, there is also a recognized need to offer online horticulture content in Fall 2020.

Additionally, this provides educators with an opportunity to focus on more horticulture programming opportunities and offerings addressing local needs rather than spending so much programming and time on just “Master Gardener training.”

Is the FIH course required?

No. The FIH course is not required for prospective MG volunteers, however documentation of other training in Wisconsin horticulture content is required. Prospective volunteers may complete an in person course (as available) or transfer from another state (if applicable). More information pending the results of the 2020-2021 pilot and post-COVID restrictions.

What will this new FIH course do?
FIH is for individuals interested in expanding their upper Midwest garden knowledge. This program is designed to create a solid "foundation" using an Integrated Pest Management framework as the course's backbone. Botany and soils are introduced in the beginning and will be referenced throughout all modules. The course will provide an introduction to plant disease, insect, weed, and wildlife pests and basics on woody and herbaceous ornamental plants, edibles, and lawns.

FIH Course Objectives:

What will participants do in the FIH Canvas course?

In Canvas, participants will read, watch videos and interact with content that proceeds through several modules providing a comprehensive overview of horticulture knowledge. IF they are also interested in becoming a MGV, this content will help prepare them for the exam. Participants will sequentially go through the modules following a syllabus. Also, webinars will be scheduled to provide participants additional course content and online interaction. Throughout the course, moderators will engage with students by answering questions and participating in discussion board activities.

Optional - participants can elect to also enroll in a local lab option (virtual for this pilot) where they will have access to more resources and engage in virtual interactive activities to reinforce the Canvas modules. (more, below)

What is the expected workload for participants in FIH?

Three to five hours per week is the expected time commitment for participants to read the required readings, watch videos and interact on Canvas. There are 12 modules which include the welcome and wrap-up weeks spread over a time period of 15 weeks. Great effort has been made to scale back the topics to be more manageable for a general audience and to prepare prospective volunteers for the horticulture exam in Onboarding. Based on the results of the pilot, adjustments will be made as necessary.

 

Who are the moderators for Canvas?

For the pilot, moderators were selected from the MG Steering Committee. In the future, Extension educators from around the state can be a moderator (training provided).

What’s happening to “Level 1” or “Master Gardener Training?”

The content from Level 1 is being used to create the pilot “Foundations in Horticulture” (FIH) program.  If educators offer horticulture themed programs in their area, it won’t be called “Level 1 or Master Gardener Training” anymore. Essentially, what was previously known as “Level 1” or “Master Gardener Training” is going away. See more on this later in this document.

When does the new FIH course take place?

A pilot will be conducted in Fall/Winter 2020-2021 running from October 19 - January 25 (with Thanksgiving and Christmas/New Year’s Breaks to allow for “catch up time”). After necessary revisions have been made, it will be determined when it will be offered next.

How frequently will FIH be offered?
To be determined based on the results of the pilot and the capacity of Extension staff to facilitate it.

How many people can take the course?

The maximum for the pilot is 150 participants. Future course participation will be determined by the results of the pilot.

Who will FIH be piloted to?

The following counties will participate in the FIH pilot for Fall/Winter 2020-2021: Waukesha, Milwaukee, Brown and Winnebago.

I am a county educator and planned to offer Level 1 Training in Fall 2020 but I’m not in the pilot county, what should I do?

You have some choices:

Okay, so I will create my own horticulture or gardening themed program and call it something else, can I promote it as a way for prospective volunteers to become certified?

Yes and No. You can promote it to the general public and to prospective Master Gardener Volunteers as a way to increase horticulture/gardening knowledge, but it is not a certification course. For those that wish to pursue becoming a Master Gardener Volunteer, you can promote the MG Program and direct prospective volunteers to enroll in the Onboarding course. Onboarding is required for all prospective volunteers. Foundations in Horticulture (FIH) or other local programming is not required, but is encouraged, especially to build knowledge in preparation for the horticulture exam. If you create your own horticulture themed programming, it is not the same as “Level 1” and is not necessary for someone to take your course to become certified, although it can help increase their horticultural knowledge in preparation for the horticulture exam in Onboarding.

I have heard that individual county Level 1 training that will be held via ZOOM will not be supported by the state MG Program.  Please explain what "not supported" means?

The state MG Program office will not support multiple versions of “Foundations in Horticulture.” There is only one version of FIH = the online Canvas course. Previous Level 1 training activities, materials, etc will not be accessible, although the online videos are still available. Educators can still design their own horticulture programming to deliver to their local areas and appeal to a general audience.

How can we create a local connection in FIH?

We recognize that creating a connection with participants is extremely important, especially to be able to connect to the local Extension educator for questions and contact. As part of FIH, local and interactive labs (virtual for Fall 2020, hopefully can be in-person in the future) can provide an opportunity to engage locally with participants from your area. The local labs can also provide additional opportunities for more in-depth interactions with the horticulture content.

Remember, we are currently operating in a virtual educational environment due to COVID. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, there will be many opportunities to create more local engagement through in-person interactive labs held by local counties, guest speakers, and other ways.

Will FIH ever be offered in person?

Yes! When we return to face-to-face programming, FIH will be adapted to be taught in person, especially to serve specific audiences that may not be able to take it online.


Appendix 1: Master Gardener Program Strategic Priorities

Appendix 2: Learn, Accomplish, Do


Appendix 3: Pathways to become a Master Gardener Volunteer