Sunday, February 3, 2013

Online Course Review - Introductory Beekeeping Training Program

I recently completed the free online Introductory Beekeeping Training Program offered by the Ohio State Beekeepers Association. The course consists of 34 video segments, 3 slide show presentations, and an online text book, Backyard Beekeeping, by James E. Tew. The video segments range in length from two to ten minutes, for a combined time of a bit over three hours.

The first thing I noticed when starting the course is that the video segments do not appear to be in a logical order. The first segment is Assembling Hive Equipment, which seems logical enough, until you get to segment 26, which is Basic Hive Equipment. I watched the videos in the order they were presented, and it worked well enough, but I think the order could certainly be optimized.

In addition to equipment, the video segments cover topics such as installing a package of bees, evaluating a queen's performance, spring management, capturing swarms, combining weak colonies, and moving hives. I found some of the segments to be a waste of time, such as the one on branding wooden equipment, but most were very informative.

I really liked the video segments, and found them to be more helpful than simply reading a book or listening to a speaker describe the same procedures. I  certainly feel more confident after seeing the videos, although I'd still like to get some hands on experience before starting our first hive.

The presentations seemed to be targeted more to existing beekeepers than those just getting started. The first, and longest, focused on pests and disease. The other two covered pollination, with a focus on commercial pollination. If you're short on time I think it is safe to skip the presentations, although they are probably worth watching at some point.

The book was a fairly introductory book, so went well with the course. I didn't learn a great deal from the book since I've taken some beginner courses in the past. At just over 40 pages, however, it was worth the time required to read it. One word of caution, however, is that the author primarily presents the methods he uses for managing bees, so I would advise reading additional books or seeking out other sources of information so you can decide for yourself which methods to use.

I noticed one major oversight in the course, top-bar hives. Since the vast majority of beekeepers use "standard" Langstroth hives I knew that would be the focus. I feel like the training does the beginner beekeeper a disservice, however, by failing to even mention top-bar as an alternative.

Completing the entire course, including reading the book, takes approximately take six to eight hours. I think the course is well worth the time investment, and would recommend it for anyone looking for introductory information on beekeeping. I do not feel that it provides complete information, however, and suggest also taking additional courses or reading books offering alternative approaches to the various beekeeping tasks.

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