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Brock U program teaches you make cider online

Frst-ever online course will give participants access to virtual behind-the-scenes tours of the top cider apple orchards and commercial production spaces across North America
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As teaching and learning transforms in response to COVID-19, Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) has transitioned its popular Cider and Perry Production Foundation course to an online format.  

This first-ever online offering was developed alongside CCOVI’s North American academic partners and sold out almost immediately.  

“We’re thrilled to offer the foundation course in an innovative new format,” says Barb Tatarnic, CCOVI’s Manager of Continuing Education. “The uptake was incredible and affirms that we’ve provided the quality cider education experience students are looking for, even if we can’t provide it in person right now.”  

CCOVI worked together with the Cider Institute of North America (CINA) and other program providers to develop the online course. Although it was born out of necessity to adapt to world events, Tatarnic says it offers new opportunities, too.  

Since the online format is now offered over a 15-week period rather than a week-long intensive session, for example, it opens the course up to those with less flexibility in their schedules.  

Brighid O'Keane, Executive Director of CINA, says another benefit to going virtual is that they were able to bring more industry experts on board.  

“The Cider Institute represents the range of cider culture, production styles and techniques, apple regions, and business models across North America,” she says. “We are excited by the first-ever opportunity to connect students directly with leaders in the cider industry and experts in fermentation research through this online course.”  

For the first time, all of CINA’s expert fermentation researchers (from Brock, Cornell University, Washington State University and Virginia Tech University) will be teaching a portion of the course.  

Steven Trussler, Brock’s certified instructor for the course, said the co-teaching element is an exciting approach.  

“With each of the instructors coming from different professional backgrounds and areas of expertise, the students learn the material from a variety of perspectives in a very multifaceted way,” he says. “The depth of time you can spend with the material in a 15-week-format also provides a very different experience even though the course has the same content and learning objectives.”  

Guest speakers are also featured in the online course almost every week, including the internationally recognized Peter Mitchell, who developed the foundation course.  

Brock graduate Emily Gillard (BSc ’15) is also one of the featured industry speakers. She is the assistant cidermaker at Brickworks Ciderhouse in Toronto and was recently awarded the Cider Institute’s Peter Mitchell Award for Educational Excellence in Cider Production.  

The most challenging part of transitioning the course was finding a way to emulate the hands-on lab work, cider making and tastings to an online format.   Trussler said they relied on a hybrid approach, pairing live, virtual lectures and online forums with pre-recorded video content and assignments that use those video demonstrations. Students also receive kits containing cider samples for the sensory analysis and tasting components of the course, as well as fermentation supplies to make and test ciders at home.  

“You have to adapt the way you are delivering this course and there is real work to make sure the value and the learning is still there,” says Trussler. “It’s not a question of what you can’t do online ­— it’s a question of what new things you can do online, and that presented a really exciting opportunity for this course.”  

Students will also have access to virtual behind-the-scenes tours of the top cider apple orchards and commercial production spaces across North America, and networking opportunities to foster teamwork and interaction.  

The current offering is sold out, but anyone interesting in taking the course is encouraged to enrol in the next session that runs from Aug. 31 to Dec. 18, with a live virtual session every week. Registration can be done online via Eventbrite and more information can be found on CCOVI’s website.