To help bolster the supply of seafood and sustain the development of the fish farming industry during a pandemic, an aquaculture research center is fast-tracking the development of online training courses.
The Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC/AQD), based in Tigbauan, Iloilo, has been host to thousands of fish farmers and government workers from all over the world who attended hands-on training courses in the past 46 years. However, restrictions on travel and mass-gatherings have already indefinitely postponed at least six training courses this year.
“Usually, we offer around 15 training courses per year but that has been greatly affected by this pandemic. The only ones that didn’t get cancelled or postponed are our distance learning courses,” said Caryl Vincent Genzola, officer-in-charge of SEAFDEC/AQD’s Training Section.
The research center has been offering online distance learning courses since 2002 on fish health and nutrition. It is working to expand the scope to include trainings on farming milkfish, mangrove crab, sandfish, and the like.
“Since we already have the experience in conducting online training courses, we just need to expand our offerings and think of more creative ways of teaching culture techniques virtually,” Genzola added.
Distance learning courses are conducted through online learning platforms, where participants can access lecture notes, instructional materials, activities, and even examinations. Instructors and participants interact via e-mail or through chatrooms and threaded discussions.
However, one of the limitations of e-learning is the lack of demonstrations and hands-on exercises which are central in learning the details of breeding and grow-out of fish, crabs, shrimp, seaweeds, and the like.
“What sets SEAFDEC/AQD’s in-station training courses apart from others is the actual demonstration of culture technologies. Somehow, we want to bring that to the online courses we will be offering by producing instructional videos,” Genzola explained.
SEAFDEC/AQD, in partnership with National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (NFRDI), will be conducting an online course on aquaculture technologies for milkfish and mangrove crab for regional staff of Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) this year.
“This course aims to provide participants with technical knowledge on broodstock management, spawning, and larval rearing of milkfish and hatchery of mangrove crab for sustainable livelihood,” said Genzola.
While the said course is going to be the first in-station course to be moved to an online platform, he said it won’t be the last.
“We are currently studying the possibility of offering online alternatives to some in-station training courses even after this pandemic,” Genzola shared.
However, the Department is still hopeful to continue in-station and even on-site training courses when the situation improves so they could address the information needs of fish farmers who don’t have online access.
“This global pandemic has changed the way the world interacts and this also highlighted some of our existing information sharing innovations,” said Dr. Edgar Amar, Training and Information Division Head of SEAFDEC/AQD.
Other SEAFDEC Departments in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia are interested to replicate the online learning platform of SEAFDEC/AQD, their counterpart in the Philippines, as the use of online platforms is expected to accelerate as part of the new normal.
“We shared our experiences on how to develop modules, hardware and software requirements, and other processes needed to conduct a smooth and successful online training course,” said Dr. Amar.
“We are taking advantage of the technologies that we have. By doing so, we are expanding our online training courses and assure that our institution continuously upholds its mandates of developing and strengthening the capacities of the aquaculture sector through training and information dissemination,” said Dr. Amar.