Gardening involves many of our senses, but it is primarily a visual activity. This fact presented a real challenge as I wrote the Aquaponic Gardening book because there is a limit to how much information you can get across through a written description. Have you ever played the game where you sit back to back with someone and try to describe to them how to draw something? It is nearly impossible without visual cues such as hand gestures, right? I was able to supplement the book with many photos and diagrams, but they had to be in black and white because my publisher only prints on recycled paper within North America (one of the reasons why I love them) which makes the cost of printing color images throughout the book prohibitively expensive. And I didn’t want to use precious space in the 8-page color insert in the middle of the book to show mundane things like how to read ammonia test results or what aphids look like. So, I did the best I could with the book and hoped that my readers had sufficient visual imagery skills to figure out what I was talking about.
That all changed on March 8 of this year when I got an email from Udemy.com asking me to create an Aquaponics online course for them. At first the idea was honestly completely overwhelming. We were in the midst of getting our arms around large system sales and shipping, I was one month away from teaching for nine days at the Green Acres Aquaponic Farming Course in Florida, and I was leaving for ten days in Japan with my son in the next two weeks. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was actually the perfect way to bring the book to life! As the idea settled into our overall strategy as a priority project, I even spent some time evaluating other online course platforms. I found that they all fell by the wayside compared to Udemy , and for several reasons.
- Udemy has terrific instructor tools, especially the ability to combine a video with a PowerPoint presentation into something they call a ‘Mashup.’ This gives me the ability to be demonstrating something, or just talking, on a screen on the left, and then synchronize slides with relevant bullet points, images, numbers and / or formulas on the right. I find this an incredibly powerful way to learn, in that it is far closer to a dynamic classroom experience than either just a video or just a slide presentation alone.
- In addition, the Udemy format allows the participant to ask questions right next to the lesson, to see others’ questions as well, and I can answer them all right there.
- As the piece de resistance, Udemy also offers the ability to schedule live chats between the instructor and the course participants!
- Finally, once a registrant signs up for a course with Udemy, they have access to that course forever! This means that you can come back to specific lessons in the course if you have questions or need a refresher. And maybe you don’t want to watch the Insect Control lesson until you actually have an insect problem. It also means that I can constantly add to and update material in the course to reflect current discoveries and trends in our new and rapidly changing industry.
In early May of this year, I began a search for a local videographer and came upon a recent graduate of the CU Film Studies program named Jesse Yadon. We met and he seemed perfect for the job. We scheduled out six Sundays to film over the next three months and got down to work. Despite the heat, wind, and rain and the airplane, train, truck and neighbor noise; we managed to get it all done.
The result is a comprehensive course that I feel incredibly good about! It contains 33 video lessons, most as PowerPoint Mashups, that each average about 10 minutes in length. It also contains twelve of my most educational (or entertaining!) blog posts and a couple of charts for tracking data and maintenance tasks. Most of all, this is the visual life that I wanted to give to my book all along. I hope you give it a try! To learn more, please click here – Aquaponics Course.