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Seed Distance Education Learning Programs

Distance Learning Courses on Seed Biology/Technology Available from Public Universities for Training Seed Industry Professionals

compiled by Gregory E. Welbaum, Division C-4 (Seed Physiology, Production, and Technology) Representative to the CSSA Board, and Professor, Department of Horticulture, Virginia Tech. 

Advances in seed science and technology are occurring at a rapid rate.  Keeping up with these changes requires continuing education programs for existing industry employees and up-to-date training programs for new employees.  The training of seed industry professionals is challenging because of logistical as well as time and financial constraints.  Seed courses offered by Land Grant universities are scattered around the country, further complicating the problem of employee training. To satisfy the growing demand for seed educational programs, both nationally and internationally, distance learning seed biology and technology courses, degree programs, and certificate programs are offered by several US universities.  Many of these efforts have come from members of the C-4 Division of CSSA (Seed Physiology, Production, and Technology).  Below we summarize some of the innovative distance learning courses and programs that have been developed to satisfy the demand for seed industry training.  Additional training programs are available from private groups but this summary focuses on programs offered by Land Grant Universities through distance education.
 
Iowa State University offers MS and certificate programs in Seed Business and Technology to uniquely prepare students for professional management positions in the seed industry and related industries and organizations. The curriculum satisfies the formal requirements for a Master of Science degree in Seed Business and Technology from Iowa State University, or students can choose to pursue one of two graduate certificates.  Seed technology in the program is used in a broad sense. It is science and technology that is applied in the seed industry and includes biotech, crop improvement, as well as courses in seed production and conditioning. The Seed Business Management Graduate Certificate program provides students with core graduate level management and leadership skills enabling them to better serve seed and agricultural biotechnology businesses and regulatory agencies, their customers and their stakeholders, in an increasingly complex industry. The Seed Science and Technology Graduate Certificate is oriented toward students who want to understand the technical side of this industry so that they can better apply their current knowledge, skills, and experience.  This program emphasizes seed production, handling, and use; seed physiology and technology; plant breeding, and plant biotechnology. The MS curriculum includes 15 courses, with material delivered through a combination of CDs and internet-based instruction. Students interact with instructors and each other in a variety of on-line formats. Instructors are highly qualified faculty and staff from Iowa State University and other institutions. The program is administered by the Iowa State University Seed Science Center, an internationally recognized leader in seed-related research, training, and outreach.

The Consortium for International Seed Technology Training (CISTT, http://www.seedconsortium.org/index.html) is led by Ohio State University.  This diverse program was established to educate students, industry personnel, and agriculturalists in seed science, seed biology, and seed technology. The CISTT is an international program committed to developing a curriculum that can be taught globally, combining seed technology expertise in other countries to teach cutting edge courses in seed science and technology with an international perspective. Interactive courses are taught using internet videoconferencing techniques and the web with collaborating institutions in Brazil and Chile.  Two examples of such courses are International Seed Production (http://seedbiology.osu.edu/hcs630.htm) and International Seed Physiology (http://seedbiology.osu.edu/hcs631.htm). 

These courses are delivered to students using a blended presentation consisting of online text, downloadable PowerPoint presentations, and both live- and recorded-video broadcasts.  This mixed format assists students in previewing and reviewing each lecture before and after the interactive video presentations.  Should language be a difficulty, students can preview the class presentations prior to a lecture and make appropriate interpretations.  The advantage of this approach is that the internet is used for communication at essentially no cost after appropriate hardware has been purchased.  The interactive lectures permit real-time interchange between faculty and students.  Faculty from each institution speak with authority about seed technology issues in their own countries permitting a greater global understanding of constraints and advantages to successful seed production.

The Consortium for International Seed Technology Training (CISTT) is committed to initiating and developing new methods of teaching topics related to seed technology.  To date the CISTT has professionally developed training DVDs on the following topics: coffee and tropical forages seed production, sunflower seed production, maize seed production, and seed testing. Snippets of these DVDs can be viewed at the Society of Commercial Seed Technologists website as well as DVD purchase directions.

The National Seed Science and Technology Distance Education Program (NSSTDEP, www. seedprograms.colostate.edu) is lead by Colorado State University and was created to train certified seed technologists through distance learning courses taught jointly among the University of Kentucky (UK, http://www.uky.edu/distancelearning), Iowa State University (ISU, http://www.distance.iastate.edu/courses/agronf08.php#337X), Colorado State University (CSU, http://www.learn.colostate.edu/certificates/seed-technology.dot) and Virginia Tech (VT, degree credit, http://www.vto.vt.edu/, continuing education credit http://www.cpe.vt.edu/reg/hort4784/)).

The NSSTDEP has been developed and supported by the four identified universities along with the Crop Science Society of America, Regional Research Project W-2168 and the USDA Educational Challenge Grant Program.  Certified seed technologists work in private and government seed laboratories to test seeds to ensure compliance with federal- and state-laws and to ensure the quality of commercial seed used for crop propagation.

Course programs include: Seed Anatomy & Identification (CSU), Seed Processes: Separation and Conditioning (CSU), Seed Development & Metabolism (CSU), Seed Processes: Seed Storage & Deterioration (CSU), Seed Purity Analysis (CSU), Vigor Testing (UK), Seed Germination & Viability (CSU), Seed Dormancy (ISU), Vegetable Seed Production (VT, http://www.cpe.vt.edu/reg/hort4784/), and Large Seeded Legume Seed Production (CSU).

The courses are designed to be taught as modules and delivered by distance to meet both the needs of degree-seeking students for academic credit as well as industry related students for CEU (Continuing Education Unit) credits. Courses can also be taken individually independent of the NSSTDEP for students interested in course-specific training without certification.  Students completing this national program are certified as seed analysts and qualified to work in state, federal, and private seed labs across the country.

Additional courses and programs will become available in the future as distance educational programs continue to grow in the US.  Many online courses are modular, allowing customization of curricula for specific company or organizational needs.  For more information, or to discuss a specific educational need, please contact the various programs described above.