What was the challenge/ problem that was addressed? Why is it important for the partnership to solve the problem?
During the Covid 19 crisis (March 2020), all schools were closed and public buildings were shut. While this describes a process rather than a project, all of the activities and management decisions are relevant to managing an innovation-driven MAA to resolve issues in a crisis. Young farmers who were attending class had to switch to virtual classes and course content including assessment was completed remotely. Some students were on work experience on farms in many different countries were not able to return home. They submitted their work online. Teachers and advisors worked from home for a long period.
How did you solve the problem? (Or if your practical case is still in progress how are you solving the problem?)
Advisors used digital solutions to keep the courses going and worked as a community of practitioners to ensure that the solutions were effective and that learning took place in the new more remote contexts. The Teagasc organisation provided institutional support in making swift decisions regarding remote access channels and facilities for all staff and students. Teagasc staff supported the wider AKIS through regular webinars, podcasts, and teleconferences. Management in Teagasc was on a full crisis alert with weekly meetings at different management levels with staff who in turn worked as teams with their students, host and benchmark farmers to design and implement revised learning plans for students, Of particular concern were students with learning difficulty. The farmer representatives on the Teagasc Authority (Board of Non-Executive Directors) participated in monthly meetings of the Knowledge Transfer Committee rather than the scheduled twice or three times yearly meetings providing valuable advice to Management.
What is innovative in your practical case? (e.g. technological innovation, new product or services, market innovations, social/organizational innovations, etc.)
While this is a technological and methodological solution, it has social and organizational innovations as the services developed worked and got the students through their programmes and are likely to be retained and embedded into future learning plans by advisors and teachers and will change the way students and farmers learn.
What are the success factors in solving the problem?
Good communications, positive attitude, courage to try new things, critical thinking, teamwork, trust, and commitment of staff and learners.
Advisors and teachers had some existing experience of using digital technology in the classroom and for elements of the curriculum. The existence of some video materials and digital communications systems were ready to use.
Teagasc like many other organisations had some existing internal capacity and experience with remote learning support, video making, Skype, and ZOOM.
Students were very willing to use their own self-made videos to demonstrate their learned skills from their own farms.
Teagasc staff at all levels listened to their students and farmers who were both responsible and responsive in their attitude and gave valuable feedback and workable solutions ensuring the safety of learners and teachers.
Sometimes it takes a crisis to start or speed up an innovation process.
Advisors and teachers were flexible and resourceful in getting the job done and helping learners overcome problems, they put the learner first.
Students are open, innovative, and adaptable to new learning and assessment channels
Student feedback through regular surveys should be supplemented with regular interactive processes to cater to the diverse needs of learners in a crisis or managed change process.
What role does the advisor or advisory service play within the practical case?
A central role in testing and delivering new and more efficient ways of providing education programmes and services.
Advisors were responsible for trying new ways to deliver content and to follow up with students who needed more support.
Advisors and teachers met in smaller groups to share experience with farmers and students, both receiving and giving feedback.
Host farmers were very flexible in their management of students on placement and could communicate back to advisors and resolve issues and problems.
Can your approach be transferred and/or adapted for other innovation challenges and regions?
Please estimate transferability in a scale from 1 to 5
(where 1 is easy and 5 very difficult)
For sharing the experience on the good practice, please contact Tom Kelly (tom.kelly[at]teagasc.ie)
References A smooth transition? Students experience of moving to online delivery and assessment in vocational agricultural education due to Covid 19 . ESEE paper June 2021.
Brian Morrissey and Monica Gorman