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Online Permaculture Course Overview

Example of some of the video content and slides for the course

The time is here! I started my Permaculture Design Certificate online course through Oregon State University last night.  Just a reminder I am not paid or affiliated with this course other than I wanted to take it! If you recall from my intro, I am going to (HOPEFULLY) document my work throughout this online permaculture course so that others can follow along and see if this type of course might be good for you. As a reminder, I am doing this course as this is the first step to becoming a certified permaculture designer and eventual instructor. Bonus though, this course alone will allow me to offer professional permaculture services using the appropriate Permaculture name! Yippy! There are PLENTY of knowledgeable instructors in the field who don’t go the whole certification route, but as a supporter of education I want to work through the official certification over the next few years.

That being said, the loose plan for these posts is as follows:

  • Post an Intro to the Course
  • Give an online permaculture course overview of the coursework (That’s what is happening today!!!)
  • On Monday’s give an overview of the work I did. My assignments are due Monday mornings, so I hope to be able to recap in a post each evening.

So what is the online Permaculture course from Oregon State looking like so far?

First impressions are that the interface is pretty robust. If you have never taken an online classes before it might be a bit intimidating, but if you just keep clicking around you will eventually find all your modules, course content, discussion forums, and syllabus. Plus there are a number of links and discussion forums for help.

Intro screen for my online permaculture certificate course at Oregon State University
So many links, but really just clicking on Modules will get you where you need to go


I, being an old school student, started with the Syllabus! I am sharing a snippet in the picture below to give you an idea of the content, but I do not want to give the instructor’s course content away in total. I am working on my own poultry raising courses as we speak and it takes an incredible amount of time to generate course content. I want to be respectful of this instructors time and work, so, if you want the whole syllabus then I guess you will need to sign up for the course ;)

Syllabus for the Online Permaculture Certificate course at Oregon State University

Anyway, my initial impressions of the course overview were as follows: excitement then overwhelmed then ‘let’s do this’. It is a large amount of work. Even more so when you start reviewing the homework and details of each week. I have zero concerns I will ‘get my money’s worth’ out of this course. I do have concerns that 10 hours a week will not be sufficient! In which case I’ll just do the usual and buckle up buttercup. I’m not afraid of some hard work! Edit: When I went to the website to link to this article Oregon State had changed the course details from 8-10 hours per week to 10-17 per week.  This makes much more sense than the original estimate.

After reviewing the syllabus I took a tour of all the side menus and figured out there are about 100 students in the course, but that we are broken up into small units (15-25 members) with dedicated Teaching Assistants (TAs). Our TAs have already in introduced themselves and from the looks of the introductions they have all taught Permaculture Design Certificate courses before. So, it is cool to have knowledgable mini-instructors. They sound much more versed in the subject of Permaculture than a lot of my TAs in their chosen subjects in Undergrad.

After doing an overview of the whole course I checked out the rest of the course content to see what would be expected and got into the details of…

Week 1: Site Selection and Watershed Mapping

I’ll go into details of what work I did week one, next Monday, but I noted that the general layout of coursework is similar for each week.

Each week, the instructor supplies video lectures, discussion forums, quizzes, textbook reading, and homework sheets. These are not required to be done in any timeframe other than by the next Monday. However, it is required that you log in and join the forums on at least a couple days. I assume this is to keep everyone from procrastinating until Sunday each week.

Details of the Online Permaculture Course

From the looks of things it appears that each week will break down to something along the lines of this:

  • Video Lectures: 1-2 hours
  • Textbook Reading: 1-2 hours
  • Quizzes: 30 mins
  • Discussion Forums: 1-2 hours
  • Homework: 5-10 hours (This varies by week as the first homework will be much shorter, but I imagine doing actual site drawings and overlays will take quite a bit of time)
Example of some of the video content and slides for the course
Here is an example of some of the video lectures. Complete with slides just like college used to make ;)

The course also provides the following:

  • Special Discussion Forum: to ask the instructor questions and also a
  • Facebook Group: for current and past students to discuss permaculture. I requested access to the FB group but have not gotten in yet.
  • Supplemental Readings/videos: They expect you to have access to the course after you take it and can use this info to further research
  • Logins to other sites: There appears to be some logins to horticulture sites and other info for students to access for free.

It was really important to read the first homework sheet, as well as, the course intro as it talks about the specific maps and write-ups you will need to generate in the first week BUT more importantly put in some notes for the rest of the course. They give you a heads up that you will need PHYSICAL ACCESS to the site you will be designing in the first set of lessons. This is important to know at the beginning because you use the same site throughout the course. I had gleaned that based on my course overview, but this is a super important fact if you are not using your yard. Which spoiler alert: I am not using our yard. I have a couple of friends that have generously allowed me to design their property. It is slightly outside the city and larger than our space. It still has a lot of semi-urban/suburban features, which, is my specific permaculture interest. Plus they have agreed to treat this as a full design and answer site questionnaires etc. (Thanks! Trevor & Justine) I will outline the details in the subsequent weeks.

Homework from my online permaculture course
Oh homework… At least the kids were impressed by the amount of reading I have to do this week.

Overall, I am pretty impressed and a bit intimidated by the course. I believe I have a pretty good grasp of the permaculture principals and design concepts from a lot of self study and Andrew Millison’s free Introduction to Permaculture course, but it looks as though this course will make me practice (a LOT) and flesh out my understanding to a much higher level. I am really looking forward to the coursework and the online format seems to be created in a thoughtful way to really help facilitate your learning. I was very concerned that I wouldn’t get as much from an online environment, but I think the instructor access and thoughtful course layout has put those concerns to rest. Now to get cracking on all this homework!

For those of you following along

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