“Doing the online course with my students was also a Covid-driven experiment. We approved it for credits at the University of Nebraska. It was a substitution for cancelled courses due to the pandemic,” explains Prof Carroll, “and it worked nicely.”
Fifteen of Prof Carroll’s students did the Online Field Guiding course in the second half of 2021, studying online for reward and fun! Four opted to do the month-long practical aspect at Makuleke Camp in May.
“Most students did very well with the EcoTraining course,” says Prof Carroll. “I sat in with them and helped translate some of the variations of English vernacular, but in the end, mammals are mammals, and birds are birds. It worked very well. The online course follows global principles. We learn about American wildlife, but I like bringing students to Africa to see bright people in other parts of the world working on wildlife solutions in their specific context. So, it broadens the horizon for our students.”
Of the instructors, Prof Carroll says they are excellent.
“My students could have easily done the course without my facilitation because it’s only the terminology that tends to be different. The course gives students who want to visit Africa a good grounding so they hit the ground running when they arrive. And it all gets students to think outside of the narrow field of how the US focuses on wildlife conservation – even if they don’t intend ever working in Africa.”
Prof Carroll says the students at his university who have been most interested in the course have been those studying wildlife conservation.
“But in the past, students who have come with me to Africa who has studied International Affairs or Geography. It has been an eye-opener to them because wildlife conservation is so connected to local people when in their studies, they have been focusing on policy, politics and culture. Higher education is about expanding horizons and being flexible, not rigid. If you think out of the box, you can creatively incorporate these activities into learning. I try to think about what’s best for the students.”
In Prof Carroll’s opinion, the course is accessible to anyone interested in wildlife conservation. On the online course, students ranged from 18 to 26—even a couple in their fifties from South Africa and Europe.
“This was the first time we did the online course, intending to embed it in the university’s course,” explains Prof Carroll. “Not all the students who did the online theory course did the practical, which is not how I originally envisaged it, but they still learnt a lot about Africa, which is also ok. The students here in Makuleke now feel much more comfortable doing this practical because they have completed the online course. But the online course is also valuable as it’s an excellent natural history course. I think the one mistake we made was to have a long time gap between doing the course and coming to South Africa to do the practical, as the students got rusty.”
From now on, Prof Carroll says he would like to more formally embed some of the EcoTraining courses into the university course, and he is working on that currently.
“Students can take a year out to come to Africa on an EcoTraining course, but they won’t lose a year of study while doing it. That would be ideal. We could do the same thing with shorter courses in South Africa during their US summer break – like the 55-day course. We need to establish the protocol on my side on how to credit them for their course.”
However, Prof Carroll says: “If you are interested in wildlife conservation, this is an excellent introduction to southern African wildlife, and it’s a lot of fun. There was great camaraderie, and my students got to know other students from around the world. It’s an opportunity to broaden your horizons, and the financial investment is not huge. The course also gives you the inside take if you do visit Africa on holiday in the future. The course is also excellent for retirees because they have time and cash and want to visit Africa. And when they do visit, they will understand the context. I sat in on the whole course and had a great time. It was a lot of fun, and even after working in Africa for more than 30 years, there were still things to learn.”
Makuleke Camp | What you can expect
Are you considering an EcoTraining course and want to know what to expect from the camps and reserves?
Take a virtual walkthrough of our camp in the beautiful Makuleke concession situated in the Greater Kruger National Park and all the incredible wildlife that calls this beautiful place home.
Situated in one of the most remote wilderness areas of the Kruger National Park, the beauty of this place will blow your mind!
About the Author:
For Keri, travel is life, like breathing. She is a modern-day nomad from her home in the Cape to Cairo, Abidjan to Zanzibar, into the Middle East, Europe and Asia. With about 50 countries visited date, her stories are told on blogs and websites and in over 3 000 magazine feature articles spanning over 20 years.
Previously an award-winning editor on various South African lifestyle, travel and wildlife publications, Keri has worked freelance since 2001 and published articles in over 100 magazine titles. Every day, Keri wakes up to write or to travel, and her greatest wish is to inspire people through her stories to pack their bags and allow the travel bug to bite.