When Seraphic Group’s founder, Zach Bush, MD, saw patterns in people’s health linked directly to problems with the food supply, he became an advocate for regenerative farming. As a potential solution to deteriorating public health, global warming, and even poverty, regenerative farming offers benefits for local and global communities. But, getting farmers to switch to it from conventional techniques is a challenge.
Regenerative farming is good for the environment and the economy in the long run—but, short term, it’s more work and more expensive than chemical-heavy, conventional farming. Add in that the appropriate techniques depend on variables like geography, soil type, and climate, and it’s a difficult thing for people to figure out on their own.
Their platform idea, Atlus∗U, needed to not only educate farmers about regenerative agriculture, but also motivate them to try it, and stick with it, for the long haul.
Understanding the Educational Purpose
As we noted in an article on different types of online learning platforms, a platform’s educational purpose determines the tools and features that will best achieve its objectives. Atlus∗U spans two purpose categories, Student Stakes Learning and Broad Stakes Learning, which means that effective education is crucial for both the learners and their larger communities.
To that end, our design vision focused heavily on content comprehension, along with keeping users motivated and engaged. Our framework included educational content and tools, accountability systems, and community features. A key component was personal stories: sharing the experiences of farmers who had successfully converted their businesses to regenerative farming and could help and encourage others to do the same.
Above all, Seraphic wanted Atlus∗U to grow and evolve over time as a kind of living guide to regenerative farming. While most online learning platforms stop when the coursework ends (think of a CPR course, where you get a certificate and you’re done), for this platform, the end of the coursework was just the beginning of the journey.
In our design, the whole community drives the learning experience, not just the teachers and coursework. It’s easy for students to connect with others who are taking the same courses, while members-only forums provide a place for productive networking, questions, stories, and support. Some forums are attached to specific lessons, so that the dialogue isn’t just between teachers and students; all members, including alumni, can participate and share their learnings on a given topic.
Another component, the accountability partner system, was crucial for achieving Seraphic’s goal of driving lasting change. Research shows that publicly sharing a goal gives people a 65% chance of success, while reporting to a specific accountability partner boosts that chance to 95%.
Finally, our learning tools were designed to enhance both content comprehension and retention. Course videos were a key feature, designed not just for the course, but for reference over time. Students have the ability to bookmark videos and attach notes to specific sections, letting them revisit important info whenever they need it.
While online learning has been around for a long time, recent advancements in design and functionality make it possible for learning platforms to have a transformative impact on individuals and across society.
In the case of Atlus∗U, it’s not just the coursework that drives users’ learning; an entire community is mobilized to help you succeed. With a focus on collaborative, lifelong learning, our design brings together farmers from around the world to improve their business, grow healthier food, and protect our world.
Need help building an effective online learning platform? Let’s talk about your goals and how to achieve them.