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On-line Permaculture Design Courses

A list compiled by Michael Pilarski

The number of on-line permaculture design courses are proliferating rapidly and there is a wide range of quality.  Here is a list of a few I know about.  I have given some comments where I know something about them. Additional info can be sent to me at:

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I used to scoff at on-line pdcs, but I now see that there is a place for them.  They are particularly good at the introductory phase. I doubt any skilled permaculturist would want to sit through an on-line course.  They are also useful for people who live in places where on-site pdcs aren’t offered and who have a hard time leaving to go to a venue.  Some on-line courses are low-cost but some are high cost.  The cheapest, in-the-flesh pdcs are cheaper then the more expensive, on-line courses.  On-line pdcs can certainly make a lot of money for some teachers.  Geoff Lawton and Vladimir Davidson are setting themselves up to make millions.  I imagine that other pc teachers will be trying to follow in their footsteps.
The benefits of an in-person pdc are that you get to bond with a like-minded group of people.  You get to have your questions answered in real time.  You get the nuances of things that cannot be picked up otherwise.  You get to have a deeper heart connection with people.  You can do group hands-on and group design and the many other things that are foregone by sitting in a chair all by yourself staring at a screen.  So do take an on-line pdc if it seems right for you.  But after that you should be looking to take an in-person pdc  with a good teacher(s).  Just as there is a range of quality in on-line courses there is also a range of quality of in-person courses.  The main thing to do is get hands-on experience.  You cannot become skilled at permaculture by sitting in an armchair.  It takes years of on-the-ground experience.

Online Permaculture Design Courses

Dan Hemenway has a long reputation in the permaculture movement. His on-line course is certainly the longest-running, on-line pdc in the US. 2013 was their 13th online pdc.
North Carolina University Free online Intro to Permaculture course:
A 72 hour Introduction to Permaculture (with instructor Will Hooker) course online. The course is set in a classroom, with videoed field trips, and the online version is meant for their 'Distant Education' students, but also utilized by students who have missed a class. (Will Hooker's home garden is on the front cover of Toby Hemenway's "Gaia's Garden".) It doesn't involve the critical design exercise mandatory to completing a PDC course.
Geoff Lawton’s on-line pdc:
Here is a write-up on Geoff Lawton’s 1st online pdc.  I believe it had 1000 people taking it.  The write-up is by Geoff Lawton’s crew so of course it is all positive.  The bit I have heard in person, makes it sound like it was a good course.  It cost $1,000 so it isn’t the cheapest on-line course.
On-line pdc at Oregon State University:
This is taught by Andrew Millison and Marisha Auerbach, both of whom are good friends of mine and I have the highest respect for their ethics and teaching.  I know they maintain a good teacher to student ratio so they can work one on one with students.  I highly recommend their course.  They also offer an Online Advanced Permaculture Design Practicum. As far as I know this is the only advanced pc course on line.  You have to graduate from a regular pdc to take the advanced pdc.
Cornell University on-line pdc:
The instructor, Steve Gabriel, is an ecologist, extension educator, and forest farmer living and working in the Finger Lakes Region of central New York. He currently spends his time working for the Department of Horticulture’s Garden-Based Learning program and coordinating the Northeast Mushroom Growers Network. He also teaches for the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute and serves on the Board of Directors for the Permaculture Institute of the Northeast. He is currently co-authoring a book on forest farming with Cornell professor Ken Mudge, which is expected to be published in 2014.
Regenerative Leadership Institute Free On-line pdc:
This is promoted as a free on-line course and supposedly 58,000 people signed up for it.  I do not recommend this course. The course material consists mainly of three-year old, poor-quality videos of Larry Korn. Very few student questions get answered. This is a poor quality pdc. Perhaps the lowest quality pdc in the world.  Vladislov Davidson, who is behind RLI, has a horrible reputation spanning the last decade.  After taking the free course you can pay for a design course certificate for $365.  RLI raised $26,000 via indiegogo to develop their free course.  The price tag for the certificate is likely aimed at making lots of money for RLI. Mr. Davidson’s ethics stink to high heaven.  If you want to hear some feedback on this course go to the discussion at:
Permaculture Education Center online pdc:
Dr Enzo and Jessica Enzo.
Patrick Whitefield’s Online permaculture course:
This course is from England, the United Kingdom. Patrick Whitefield is one of the most well-known and respected pc teachers in the UK.  One of his specialties is reading the landscape and he published a book on it “The Living Landscape”.
Online Permaculture courses in Australia:
April Sampson-Kelly's Permaculture Visions.
One I would add is April Sampson-Kelly's Permaculture Visions. Her online/distance learning course has been running for over two decades and has Mollison's endorsement. World Pioneer in Online Permaculture Learning Est. 1993. April has a solid reputation in international permaculture circles.

Australia’s ACS on-line courses:
There are three levels of their on-line pc courses and one is an advanced permaculture course online. ACS is a highly regarded, large, public system of education. Their permaculture education courses were set up by Robyn Francis.

Undoubtedly there are other on-line pdcs out there and many more will be offered in the years to come.  This is just the snapshot I see at the moment.


Riversong herb garden in October, 2006. End of year one.
Michael Pilarski in Riversong Farm herb garden. Hood River, Oregon. June 1st, 2006. Planting almost finished.
Sunny Pine Farm / Arnica Chamissonis
Sheep Sorrell in bloom at Sunny Pine Farm, Eastern Washington
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