Web-based training: from e-learning to professional communities

The development of the region’s primary sector must draw on a highly professional and closely networked system of knowledge (consultancy, training, dissemination). Training is essential in such a context, and it is equally important for related activities to be developed according to principles of innovation and networking.

This approach has been adopted by Veneto Agricoltura, which was established to train professional figures with specialist agricultural knowledge (technicians, association representatives, trainers, researchers, civil servants, etc.).

Veneto Agricoltura, appointed by Regione Veneto, has accrued extensive experience in the field of training over the years, in both on-site and blended e-learning courses, and in the organisation of the local human resources, which it has grouped into networked systems (professional communities).

E-learning blended

apprendere via internetE-learning means learning by means of online technology, while blended refers to a mixture of learning methods (classroom and Internet), in which online lessons are alternated with a few important classroom sessions or technical tours to allow the analysis of case studies and the reinforcement of the positive moments of knowledge and comparison that personal encounters are able to offer.

All that is required to take an e-learning course is a computer with Internet connection and an e-mail address. Students can connect at any time of day from any place, without the need for physical movement or adherence to fixed schedules. However, the course cannot be studied randomly, but according to a calendar and within a well-defined group of course members, led by a tutor. Consequently, it should not be confused with consulting a normal website.

Students have access to set texts to study, documents for in-depth reading, multimedia products, selfassessment tests, and so on. Most of these original materials have been specifically designed to be used online, which is different from reading a printed document or listening to a lesson.

However, the most important aspect is the opportunity for active interaction between students, tutors and teachers. Indeed, forums allow students to compare notes with fellow course members and teachers and discuss the subjects of the course in greater detail, request explanations and contribute their own experience.
Documents can be drawn up online using the wiki system, and it is possible to share photographs, documents, etc. This process is known as collaborative learning, in which knowledge is not simply transferred from teacher to student, but also among the students themselves, drawing on their own experience and professional skills, which are shared and “networked”. All of these aspects promote the formation of professional communities, which keep alive a network of knowledge and relations that conventional learning processes often promote, but rarely manage to preserve in the long term.

Professional Communities

comunità professionale

A Professional Community is a virtual meeting place for professional players interested in a particular subject, which they share and expand their knowledge and professional skills by developing experience, solutions and better knowledge together. Consequently, it is not a traditional educational experience, but a “professional” one, targeted at one’s job and focused on the experience of the participants and their ability and desire to cooperate.

The community becomes an exceptional channel of communication that is always open and multidirectional, i.e. capable of connecting local authorities with local players, representatives of different associations or institutions, professionals with researchers, etc.

Success stories

Since 2006 Veneto Agricoltura has been offering training courses and professional communities through Regione Veneto’s e-learning portal (




Networked networks

cartina italia

The example of Veneto has been taken up by many other Italian regions, which have already adopted these training processes and networking methods (e.g. Regione Lombardia and Provincia Autonoma di Trento) or requested aid in replicating them in the near future, thus giving scope for a network of inter-regional enterprises.

february 2011