Web-based learning for forestry professionals

02 February 2011 | News story

Internet resources for knowledge sharing among the forest community are offered by Andy Alm and Jack Byrne of IUCN CEC.

Reprinted from arborvitae 42: Communicating Forest Values

What do the online learning strategies of an effective forest conservation leader look like?

While forestry researchers have long used the Internet to share their learning, other forest professionals including policymakers and managers are also increasingly turning to the Internet to update their knowledge about new trends, emerging issues, policy options and the management practices used to implement them.

What do the online learning strategies of an effective forest conservation leader look like? For California-based forest climate policy consultant Andrea Tuttle, the answers are mobile. She carries her Smartphone and laptop computer traveling in North America and Asia, subscribes to a number of email lists and participates in ‘webinars’. Her reading list includes Climate-L, run by the International Institute for Sustainable Development www.climate-l.org; Environment & Energy Publishing’s daily news and video paid-subscription wires www.eenews.net; Forest Trends’ “Trendlines” www.forest-trends.org/newsletters.php; plus blogs such as Climate Progress www.climateprogress.org and REDD Monitor www.redd-monitor.org.

Online learning for forest policymakers and managers can range from casual searching to formal courses of instruction. Information repositories, journals and news sites provide references and perspectives from different stakeholder groups.

Online social networks may supplement the conventional face-to-face professional networks and meetings where forest policy and management are discussed.

Online repositories abound for forest data, documents and news, at varying levels of reliability and accuracy. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s “Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010” website includes a portal that makes thematic maps of forest cover instantly accessible, along with links to high-resolution satellite imagery from its global remote sensing survey of forests http://geonetwork4.fao.org/geonetwork/srv/en/fra.home.

A search for “forest policy” on YouTube.com returns more than 500 videos. Several Twitter feeds of short news items focus on forests, such as www.twitter.com/EI_Forest.

Online courses range from structured curricula, to less formal opportunities to interact with experts. The IUCN Commission on Education and Communication (CEC)World Conservation Learning Network soon will provide a catalogue of informal learning resources recommended by commission members, along with accredited online programs for advanced degrees and certificates in various conservation disciplines www.iucn.org/cec.

The Nature Conservancy offers a free, public online Introductory Course on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Conserving and Enhancing Forest Carbon Stocks (REDD+)
 www.conservationtraining.org.

The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) launched an e-learning site that uses a taxonomy of forest and climate-related terms as the entry point for learning, combined with articles on key topics and self-paced tests http://elearning.iufro.org/e-learning.

Similarly, the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration www.forestlandscaperestoration.org organizes learning resources including videos, slideshows and documents together with discussion forums and online courses from Wageningen University and Research Centre.

The U.S. Forest Service uses recorded expert presentations to make up-to-date scientific knowledge available to forest managers, via its Climate Change Resource Center www.fs.fed.us/ccrc. These are also available as “portable presentations” that can be run from a disk without an Internet connection.

Online social networks provide venues for discussion, links to resources, shared calendars, and professional lag connections based on trusted “friend-of-a-friend” introductions. The International Union of Forest Research organizations (IUFRO) created a social network space it calls “The Global Network for Forest Science Cooperation” that is linked to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and a WordPress blog www.iufro.org/iufro. It aims to be a one-stop venue for policy news, publications and experts.

If you are designing your own online learning strategy, identify the three or four most important areas for you to gain knowledge, then select sources that focus in these areas. The rest of the Internet can wait. Based on your available time and when you have online access, select resources that fit.

Contact: Jack Byrne, jmbyrne@middlebury.edu

Jack is Director of Sustainability Integration Office at Middlebury College, USA, and Andy is Managing Partner of Andrew Alm Consulting. Jack and Andy are both members of IUCN’s Commission on Education and Communication.