In developing countries, classroom resources for educators can be hard to come by – and making cross-continental connections to improve curricula can be even harder. To change this, a Virginia Tech-managed program is launching an online community that will connect agricultural education practitioners around the world.

"In many countries, resources and classrooms are scarce, and having the possibility to meet with professionals from around the world is an amazing opportunity," said Tom Hammett, director of Innovation for Agricultural Training and Education, the program that is launching the Innovate community site.

The Web interface will build a mutual support network among teachers, employers, administrators, and U.S. Agency for International Development personnel and encourage them to engage and collaborate. For example, a faculty member in Mali can connect with a professor in Rwanda to discuss the impact of post-conflict environments on agricultural training institutions.

Users can customize their profiles and follow contacts. The Innovate community also enables users to work on a project or join a group. Conversations are not limited to English and can also take place in French and Spanish. "With an electronic environment, we are now able to create the community across borders," said Innovate community manager Donna Westfall-Rudd, a Virginia Tech assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Science’s Department of Agricultural, Leadership and Community Education.

Westfall-Rudd continued, "This global community can bring together agricultural education and training professionals at all levels to provide feedback, develop curriculum, or share training opportunities. It has the potential to be an amazing resource for agricultural education."

The Innovation for Agricultural Training and Education program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is managed by the Office of International Research, Education and Development at Virginia Tech. The program helps higher education institutions in the developing world improve curriculum, strengthen administrative capacity, and build infrastructure. 

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

Written by Laina Schneider.