Considered as the training arm of the Department of Agriculture (DA), it is but a public knowledge that the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) is tasked to harmonize all training activities which are agricultural by nature (yes, aquaculture included). Its 16 Regional Training Centers (and one center for swine sensibility through ITCPH) sprawled across the country indicates its conscious effort to deliver extension services to its farmer-clients and extension workers.
Enter the 21st Century. The Institute this time was again faced with the enormous task of delivering extension works and methodology with a breakthrough approach. Just what is that approach will be? Will it make an impact? ATIs face-to-face mode of technology transfer is tried and true but it seems the whole thing of going through trainings on a perennial basis is meticulous and a bit pass.
They say that ATI is aging, bereft with new ideas to generate results and impressions. Just where is ATI heading in the wide stretch of civil service?
Enter ATIs e-Learning Program. The e-Learning Program for Agriculture and Fisheries was ATIs answer to the call for a millennium makeover. The e-Learning Program certainly did favor to the Institute by giving it a new face and an additional credibility. Todays trend in knowledge sharing and technology transfer is not only restricted nor confined to the four corners of a room but eventually transcended as an online information superhighway --- and ATI kept abreast with the times by harnessing the wonders of ICT.
According to the famous and ubiquitous wikipedia.org., Distance Learning or Distance Education is a field of education which aims to deliver education to students who are not physically on site. Rather than attending courses in person, teachers and students may communicate at times of their own choosing by exchanging printed or electronic media, or through technology that allows them to communicate in real time and through other online ways.
There are 5 fundamental truths why ATIs distance learning matters:
- Content The content of the e-Learning site is regularly updated and can be refreshed easily. The contents are outsourced from a subject matter specialist or from an RTC where the subject matter is of high priority and importance.
- Consistency One can expect the same quality information since most of the content developers are coming from the 16 RTCs as e-Learning coordinators.
- Customization The online courses offer a personalized instruction and can be developed for the specific need of a user, organization or a group. Even the communication aspect is well covered through its forums and web blogging online where interaction is a mouse-click away.
- Reduced Cost - The cost incurred when a user avails a commercial internet cafe to log in to the site is of minimal value compared to conducting a regular training.
- Increased retention The user-trainees have a degree of control over their own learning process since the lessons online can be accessed when and where it is needed.
I believe that ATIs e-Learning is a fresh start to open many doors of possibilities for empowering our farmers. It is an excellent avenue where endeavors and undertakings will take form and see its fruition in the near future. I also believe that it is about time that our farmers go online and be internet-savvy. Whether dealing with atmospheric disturbances or keeping up with the changing soil conditions, the modern farmer must also be at the forefront of embracing new technology as a necessary tool for change.
After its 1st year run, the difference it made since its inception online is that not only it promised to upscale and upgrade knowledge sharing but delivered technology transfer to a higher notch. The feedback we received so far is overwhelming since it never crossed our mind to have an ample audience share online from Agusan del Norte, Cebu, Naga, Saudi Arabia to Vienna, Austria.
ATI's distance learning approach through its e-Learning Program is definitely at par with global standards and in tune with the times.
(Note: The author would like to give due credit to Mr. Rey Alo, ATIs e-Learning Process Advisor for providing viewpoints on e-Learning.)