Minnesota Revises Business Management Education Curricula and Instruction for Farmers. Next in Line, Online Instruction!

A sizable collaborative project is enabling Minnesota’s Farm Business Management Education program to realign and revise its curriculum – offered through eight colleges across the state – to better help today’s producers achieve success. The program, designed for producers interested in learning more about farm business management and finance to improve profitability, now is based on clearly defined course and program outcomes that remain constant no matter where in Minnesota those courses are taught, or by whom. The newly defined course and program outcomes resulted from an occupational analysis that determined which knowledge and skills producers currently need to be successful business managers.

Minnesota’s Farm Business Management Education program, currently enrolling about 3,150 producers annually, has a more complete and outcomes-driven curriculum than ever before, according to Dick Joerger, system director for Agriculture and Business Program Coordination for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. Producers know what knowledge and skills they will master by the end of each course and upon completion of the program, Joerger says. Moreover, the new curriculum and soon-to-be-completed instructional materials will make it easy for instructors to teach the courses, because they feature complete and updated curriculum, learning plans, learning activities, instructional media and performance assessments – soon to be accessible from a centralized Web site.

Access, Download or Print Curriculum Documents from Central Web Site

Ultimately, instructors will be able to download or print curriculum and instructional documents, including course outcome summaries, assessments, learning plans and related learning materials, from the program’s Web site, which will serve as a curriculum repository. “The electronic nature of the curriculum allows instructors to revise, adjust and recreate to meet the needs of individual producers,” says Joerger.

Making the curriculum easily accessible to the instructors is important, he says. Unlike most college programs, in the Farm Business Management Education program, instructors teach producers using individualized and small and large group instruction with a variety of instructional media including video-conferencing technologies. When phase one of the curriculum initiative is complete, phase two – the development of learning plans and activities and storage of the curriculum on the new, centralized Web site – is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2009. Hybrid or complete online courses are scheduled to become part of the Farm Business Management Education program offerings for students in 2010 and 2011 when sufficient development resources are secured. Online courses will help expand program opportunities to more students and producers within and outside of Minnesota.

Organizing the Revision & Collaboration

To pull the curriculum project together, Joerger needed help. That’s why he – and the eight colleges offering the program – turned to the Worldwide Instructional Design System (WIDS). WIDS is a non-profit organization that provides instructional design software, consulting and training. Terri Johnson, a WIIDS consultant, worked very closely with a number of instructors and producers to collaboratively develop the curriculum. Johnson says this approach resulted in the optimal sharing of ideas and practices.