Written by Ann Marie Murphy —
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Word Cloud by Permanent Culture Now

The Division of Outreach and Engagement is playing the pivotal role in offering a free online permaculture design course. The development of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is a joint effort of Open Oregon State, Professional and Continuing Education (PACE), Ecampus and Extension and Experiment Station Communications (EESC). Very exciting!

So exciting, in fact, that more than 6,000 people already have registered for the four-week course (myself included). You are invited to register, as are your friends, family and community. Help spread the word. Registration is open now through May 1, and the course is May 2 through May 30.

Intro to Permaculture, is a public education project that will enable students worldwide to learn about and design sustainable landscapes and ecosystems in a highly interactive way. The course is designed to benefit everyone regardless of learning style, time commitments, or available technology. Expect to spend between two to four hours each week on coursework.

The course isn’t teaching specific techniques as much as a system and process of design.

Andrew Millison, instructor for OSU Department of Horticulture, is teaching the course. He’s been involved in permaculture practice, design and education for 20 years. He’s also founder of Permaculture Design International (PDI), a full service design and build firm specializing in custom ecosystem development.

What is Permaculture?

The PDI website says: “Permaculture is the art and science of designing [human] systems in harmony with Nature.” Said another way, courtesy of Permanent Culture Now, permaculture “is a design system that intentionally creates a harmonious integration of the natural landscape and people as a means of providing food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. It is also the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience that is found in natural ecosystems.”

The beauty of permaculture is that its principals can be applied to everything from home gardens to communities.

And the beauty of this course is that the learning experience will include video, images, animation, text, resource lists, links, and interactive activities. When students complete all of the interactive assignments and content quizzes, they will receive a ‘digital badge’ which verifies their participation.

“I’ve seen exponential growth in permaculture in recent years because it directly addresses many of the issues that are on people’s minds, such as climate change, food security and the alleviation of poverty,” Millison said. “Permaculture offers solutions to these issues, and this course gives people a way to make a positive impact.”

Who should take this course?

The course is for the novice and the professional alike, with no prior experience necessary (the class assumes no prior knowledge). For the person new to design and land stewardship, the course will provide a foundation from which to build upon with subsequent training, and introduce a new perspective that can be applied in many careers and facets of life.

For the gardener, farmer, nurseryman, architect, landscaper, land manager, developer, engineer, aid worker, planner or activist, the course provides a grounding in the permaculture process that can be applied to current endeavors.

The OSU course development team is collaborating with the Permaculture Association, a British nonprofit recognized as the most organized permaculture organization on earth. Many other organizations are helping to publicize and provide educational and media resources as well, including PDI, Regrarians, Oregon State University Small Farms, Unify, Daily Acts, Villiage Lab, NuMundo, Permaculture Voices, and more.

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