The 20th Commonwealth Forestry Conference, hosted by the Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia, Canada was held online from August 16 to 18, 2021. Forestry experts from over 46 economies shared their knowledge and experience on topics such as bio-economy, ecosystem services, forest education, careers, technology and innovation for modern forest management, benefits, valuation, community engagement of urban forests, forest fires, insect outbreaks, and seed transfer from climate change, as well as indigenous and community forestry. It brought together practitioners and researchers from governments across the globe while welcomed audiences from the forest industry, scholarly, and indigenous communities to promote collaborations across economies at various levels from policy to on-the-ground actions, and to encourage the showcasing of existing projects while focusing on cross-economy collaboration that makes a difference.
Zhang Shiyi, a project manager from APFNet attended the session “Lessons learned in delivering the Innovative SFM Online Courses amid the Pandemic” and give a presentation regarding APFNet’s support on SFM education on 16 August, the first day of the conference. Recognizing the urgent need for this topic in the region, the contribution of Asia Pacific Forest Education Coordination Mechanism (AP-FECM), which is an APFNet initiated mechanism for collaboration amongst forestry universities, is to improve the access to education in the field of forestry, targeting the improvement of teaching quality, curriculum and research capacity chiefly among forestry universities, but also policymakers and practitioners in the Asia-Pacific region.
The AP-FECM Open Education Resources (OER) initiative with funding from APFNet through the Innovative Sustainable Forest Management Education project in the Asia-Pacific Region, have led the development and implementation of an internationally joint innovative SFM OER program since 2013 based on the need for such program in Asia-Pacific to address the challenges of changing context of global forest and forestry education. Since 2016 the re-purposed OER courses have provided world-class forestry education resources to more than 15,000 learners from over 90 international economies. In this presentation, it was highlighted how a series of 14 state-of-the-art SFM OER courses were developed under the lead of UBC and in partnership with Beijing Forestry University, University of Melbourne, University Putra Malaysia, University of the Philippines Los Baños, University of Florida. During the session, the experience and lessons learned from the application of the existing OER courses across the region during the pandemic were discussed. No exception to the importance of technological innovations for forestry education. For example, the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) when field activities are not available during the pandemic, strategies to enhance the interactions, and promote critical thinking in online classrooms by increasing time and deadline for discussions, assignments, and adding video discussion and using of social media for interaction with instructors and fellow learners.