ADAPTING TO A PANDEMIC: HYBRID-STYLE MASTER GARDENER VOLUNTEER TRAINING
T. Freeman, UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County, St. Augustine, FL
Situation: St. Johns County Horticulture Agent annually offers an intensive Master Gardener Volunteer (MGV) training program designed to educate and empower volunteers to assist agent with providing research-based information to county residents. Typically, classes are held in-person, once a week, for 6 hours a day over the course of 3 months. In 2020, we needed to quickly adjust our training style to provide safe and effective training for new volunteers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Objective: The objective was to provide MGV trainees quality education and training while following all CDC and UF health and safety guidelines. Method: This was accomplished by developing a hybrid platform that encompassed virtual programming for all lectures with a condensed in-person component for hands-on lessons. The virtual teaching was done in partnership with Clay County Horticulture agent and was accomplished by pre-recording audio to PowerPoint presentations that were then uploaded to Canvas, the virtual learning management platform. The in-person component was limited to 9 participants and 3 hours a week. Students were seated at tables spaced 10 feet apart when inside, although programming was held outside as much as possible. Throughout the course, participants were required to follow all CDC and UF guidelines for health and safety, including wearing masks and social distancing. Results: A post-course follow-up survey revealed that 80% of 5 respondents felt the hybrid style of training (part virtual, part in-person) was preferable to 100% in-person training and were extremely to moderately satisfied with the training overall. Conclusion: Due to the positive feedback about the hybrid teaching platform, we will continue to utilize this method for future trainings.