After a successful launch of the first-ever online Dairy Production and Management MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), the program is now offered in four languages beyond English: Spanish, Bulgarian, Chinese and Portuguese.
The comprehensive eight-week course is offered by Coursera, an open education platform that provides online courses, available to anyone with an internet. Developed by a team of Penn State faculty led by Alex Hristov, Ph.D., Professor of Dairy Nutrition in Penn State’s Department of Animal Science, the course devotes each week to a specific area of the dairy industry. Called “MOOOO-C” by its developers, it was first released in March, 2016 and now has a global audience of nearly 8,000 active users.
“Having the course lectures translated into additional languages will help to extend dairy knowledge to a much broader audience,” Hristov said. “Offering this course is an outstanding way to extend Penn State’s mission of dairy and animal science education internationally. This brings the most vital information to dairy producers and industry professionals around the world.” The course has been accessed in over 180 countries, and there are 1,100 learners who have completed the course.
An additional value of the course is the ability to log onto discussion forums and ask specific questions. Graduate students respond to all the questions after consulting with the instructors.
In designing the course, Hristov said he and his colleagues wanted to make it relevant to a broad range of interests, engaging both experienced dairy producers and newcomers while delivering both fundamental knowledge and best practices related to sustainable dairy production systems.
To date, 30 percent of those enrolled are from North America, 29 percent are from Asia, 19 percent from Europe, 11 percent from Africa, 8.2 percent from South America and 2.4 percent from Oceania.
In total, 34 percent are women and 65 percent men, with the largest group in the 25-34 age range. Thirty-four percent have completed bachelor’s degrees and 30 percent have master’s degrees. Fifty-one percent of the learners are employed full-time.
The syllabus includes: Dairy Genetics (one week); Forage, Production and Pasture Management (1 week); Dairy Nutrition (2 weeks); Dairy Reproduction (1 week); Metabolic Disorders and Herd Health (1 week); Milk Quality and Milk Hygiene (½ week); Dairy Farm Management and Economics (1 week); and, Dairy Production and the Environment (½ week).
Hristov said that comments have been very supportive of the value of the program, with an approval rating of 4.8 out of five stars. One comment from a small farmer in Cameroon stated, “I feel like a professional now. I have learned a lot of skills which will enable me to improve my small dairy farm.” Another commented, “This is an excellent course that provides a great overview of dairy production and management. I took the course to expand my knowledge of the dairy industry. I came away with a deep appreciation for dairy farming.” And another wrote, “I am a professional in the field of ruminant nutrition and the course was very helpful.”
Instructors who teach segments of the course include:
- Alexander Hristov, Professor of Dairy Nutrition, Department of Animal Science
- Troy L. Ott, Professor of Reproductive Biology and Associate Director of the Huck Institutes of Life Sciences
- Bhushan Jayarao, Resident Director, Penn State Diagnostic Laboratory (ADL)
- Greg Roth, Professor of Agronomy, Department of Plant Science
- Garbielle A. Varga, Distinguished Professor of Animal Science, Department of Animal Science
- Chad Dechow, Associate Professor of Dairy Cattle Genetics, Department of Animal Science
- Robert Van Saun, Professor of Veterinary Science and Extension Veterinarian, Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
- Kathy Soder, Research Animal Scientist, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Pasture Systems and Watershed Management
- James Dunn, Professor of Agricultural Economics, Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education
- Lisa A. Holden, Associate Professor of Dairy Science, Department of Animal Science
This MOOC is aimed at professionals directly or indirectly involved in dairy production, including farm managers, employees and consultants, livestock producers, educators and students who are interested in animal and dairy science.
The course can be taken at no charge, unless participants choose the certificate option, for which there is a small fee.
To enroll, visit https://www.coursera.org/course/dairy. There is also a link on the Department of Animal Science’s webpage.