Course Review – Intro to Permaculture Design

Earlier this spring, someone in my local urban farming group on Facebook shared about a free online permaculture course that was going to take place over four weeks in May. Like a… typical student enrolled in an online course, I waited until week two-ish to even start on anything, and did not finish the course because the last few days of it coincided with Memorial Day weekend/my birthday. Good thing it was free! And that it didn’t actually count for college credit any kind. Because I would not have passed since I missed the last several ‘assignments’ because I was too busy cleaning house for my birthday party.

The course I took was the Intro to Permaculture Design class by Oregon State University. It will be available to take again at the end of October. If you’re interested in signing up, you can go ahead and enroll through Canvas Network. (They also offer a lot of other really cool looking courses. Some of them are free, some not, so check carefully!)

So, what is Permaculture?

“Permaculture” is a compound word, derived from ‘permanent agriculture’. The concept of permanent agriculture is, in essence, setting up a food system that will still be there for your children, grandchildren, great-grand-children, and so on. It also relies on sustainability practices, and an effort to live creating as little waste as possible.

I’m not going to go into too much more detail than that, because I’m not teaching the course, so let’s get to my impressions and experience.

The User-Interface

I’m not going to give a poor review based on this, because I know the instructor and OSU had little control over the UI. While Canvas is infinitely more user-friendly and pretty than the online Blackboard system that was used when I took college classes 10+ years ago, it was still a little clunky in spots and some of the navigation was not intuitive. Maybe they’ll smooth some of that out before October!

The Course

I came into this knowing very little about permaculture, other than that I’ve heard the term a lot lately in the several gardening/homesteading/self-sustainability places I follow. The course was great for explaining quickly and concisely what permaculture is, and how it works.

Then came the fun part – learning the principles of permaculture, seeing real works-in-progress and successful project examples from several places around the world, and we began to apply what we were learning.

What I wish I could get my hands on is the mapping tool they had for marking the zones and sectors. I’ve been poking around on ye ol’ google, and haven’t found anything similar to it that fits my budget (IE: free).

My Sector & Zone Maps
(I had to split the sector map into two because it became too busy to comprehend.)

See, aren’t those so pretty? I never made to the point of doing the ‘final design map’, though, and I wasn’t able to go through the last week or so of the course, so I’ll definitely be taking it again this fall.

If you’re remotely interested in sustainable alternatives to commercial agriculture, and self-sustainability, I definitely recommend this course!

Recent Comments

  • mariazannini
    June 28, 2016 - 3:22 pm · Reply

    I took a video course on permaculture a few years ago, but my internet connection was so shabby I finally gave up trying to stream the videos.

    It seemed okay, though the instructors were a bit long-winded. I don’t want to hear the philosophical dogma behind permaculture. I want to know the science and the best symbioses between plants and animals.

    Try to remind us when you take this again. Maybe I can hook up this time.

    • Rebekah Loper
      June 28, 2016 - 3:35 pm · Reply

      You can actually go ahead and enroll for the fall course now through the links above, and that way you’ll get email reminders when the time gets closer. 🙂

      They covered the dogma some in this course, but not over-poweringly so. It was more about implementation.

  • Nicky
    June 28, 2016 - 9:19 pm · Reply

    Sounds like a great course. I like that they offered real life examples during the course. That helps me more than just learning the theory.

    • Rebekah Loper
      June 29, 2016 - 1:26 pm · Reply

      Me too! Seeing the different ways people have implemented things usually helps me branch out and figure out how to best implement something for my own region.

  • Alicia Owen (@BoredinArkansas)
    July 15, 2016 - 11:16 am · Reply

    Thanks for sharing this! There is a YouTuber we started watching religiously recently (mostly because of chickens) that does permaculture and it’s really got me interested in it! Definitely going to try to take that class you mentioned in the fall.

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About Rebekah

Rebekah Loper writes character-driven epic fantasy featuring resilient women in trying and impossible circumstances who just want to save themselves but usually end up saving the world, often while falling in love.
She lives in Tulsa, OK with her husband, dog, two formerly feral cats, a small flock of feathered dragons (...chickens. They're chickens), and an extensive tea collection. When she's not writing, she battles the Oklahoma elements in an effort to create a productive, permaculture urban homestead.