Widening Participation – Online Education

Part of the Widening Participation Series: European Permaculture Teachers Partnership – Friland Ecovillage, Denmark, 29 May 2014. Contributed by Katka Hora, Czech Republic

A short video with a presentation of the skype conference can be found below


During the EPT meeting in Friland ecovillage in Denmark, we held a session on widening participation as an open space session with six tables / stations and different ways to reach out to people.

One of them was a skype conversation with Jose and Stella from the Integral PermaCulture Academy in Spain who have experience with online teaching of permaculture. They logged in from their land in Spain in Canary Island ?

Jose and Stella, as they are permaculture teachers and practitioners prepared a short PP presentation.


Here is a personal story of how it affected the writer and sum-up of the skype conference.


Personally, i spend much of my time travelling and getting from one place to another, between courses, consultations and personal visits and never- ending cups of tea :-). A Nature loving person, you could say, spending only the necessary amount of time with the computer. As such i cannot imagine spending more time with the computer, waiting for a train while looking for a good enough internet connection to „meet“ people only on the screen. On the other hand, there is the temptation of being able to to stay home and be a support to somebody hundreds of kilometers away, limiting our ecological foot print…

As a permaculture teacher I am often asked to teach a course on somebody’s land and to be honest, that is the most interesting part of it for me – meeting the people in their home, relaxed in their own environment, understanding their needs and the specific needs of the place.

These exact same conditions are not able to be fulfilled when people travel to some other place to learn about permaculture. Total beginners might not even have the ability to melt into somebody else´s environment and understand how to implement the newly learnt permaculture principles into their own life and household.

How did it all star for Jose and Stella?  Who is on the other side of the phone?


Offering permaculture on-line courses comes from observing peoples’ needs for individual learning, and at the same time need for network of support and feeling of community.

There is a great number of people, who cannot attend residential permaculture course for a number of reasons: they have animals, they live on farms, they run a business, have a full-time job, have children, cannot travel far … or just cannot afford it. At the same time they already can be very good practioners and deserve to have the chance to passs the course.

It is also suitable for people who just dont „do big groups“ and/or want a more personal aproach of the teacher.

The main advantage of online teaching – same for the students and teachers:

  • people stay rooted in their place
  • people have a continuity in their work
  • people choose time when to study
  • the course can be cheaper
  • people save on travel time and costs

How is the on-line learning with the Integral PermaCulture Academy organised?

  • The whole education system is based on chaotic design model, completely self-organised. The only thing prepared is the protocol, and students are motivated  to follow their own rhythm and choose among the fields of interest.
  • Students can start at any time and study in his/her own pace
  • The classes are recorded and the student can get back to them at any time
  • Live online meetings with facilitators every 2 weeks, every 4 weeks with students,
  • The classes are recorded, so students can go back to them.
  • Personal meetings on skype
  • Skype groups
  • Files are loaded in a WIKI, where people can access them independently of time zone
  • The fee is €241 for a course
  • It can be paid in PERMIES, which is is an online permaculture currency
  • Students can send their own short videos of their place and ask advice and support
  • Students get credits for solving problems during the learning process
  • Students support each other during the process – via Teach and Learn facilitation.
  • Personal meetings of the students are encouraged, and they happen spontaneously anyway, if they live close by.
  • Students are also „being prepared“ to come and visit and support projects and places, for example during „Perma-summer“, where students meet at one site where the design work is done.

 Maybe this could be connected to the PLANT places, partly as an inspiration?

To this day they are 10 teachers and/or apprentices with about 50 sudents. As it started in Spain, most of the students are Spanish, but courses are also run in English, and recently have been asked by French people to join the same scenario of teaching. By the way, they are recruiting teachers 🙂 so, go on, send them an email…

Challenges, space for improvements?

How to have more live interaction – inspire people to make more little videos so people can see each other and their sites, and mainly the solutions they come up with.

How to reach to people who dont have or dont like internet and would otherwise join.

Remind students that it is theirs!


After listening to the sofisisticated (yet organically formed and growing) model of on-line teaching, presented by the very relaxed, smiling and enthusiastic Stella and Jose, I have to admit to myself a few things. First one is my personal dislike of computer time, which very likely comes from not being efficient enough – my dislike of learning new technology keeps me down to slower pc models and operation systems, so i have to consult my IT friend soon.

To get more confidence in online learning / teaching and maybe even start to teach online myself, i am considering following an on-line Diploma Course myself.

One very personal note: when asked to present a short summary of the skype conference, to take off pressure and shyeness off myself from being filmed while presenting, we improvised with Peter and made a little play – there you go: PROBLEM TURNED INTO A SOLUTION:-)