Thrive has been delivering training since 1980, offering its first course on ‘the power and benefits of horticultural therapy’, and continues to offer a diverse and relevant training programme for the sector. For the first 37 years training was delivered face to face, using the practical nature of STH and the links of theory to practice, to deliver courses and workshops across the country.

In September 2017 Thrive launched ‘ThriveLearn’, an online learning platform offering people around the world the opportunity to access the sector leading knowledge and information that Thrive has spent the past 37 years developing. Learners from 48[1] countries have accessed ‘ThriveLearn’ since its launch, with 1499 individual accounts already created, allowing Thrive and its passion for ‘using gardening to change lives’ to reach more people than the face to face delivery programme.

So can an online course offer a suitable alternative to the knowledge and information that you would get from a face to face course? This blog looks to examine some of the key considerations, so you can see how we have transferred our practical knowledge onto an online platform.


“The most important principle for designing lively eLearning is to see eLearning design not as information design but as designing an experience.” – Cathy Moore


Why face to face?

Our face to face courses offer a range of subjects and are delivered primarily from our 3 regional centres in Reading, London and Birmingham. These are a range of 1 to 2-day courses across a broad programme of learning, with some courses sometimes being offered for delivery across other parts of the country.

It is always valuable to consider the question ‘What do we as an organisation hope to achieve from face to face training?’. This is always going to present that answer ‘we want to provide information and training to those who are interested and passionate about STH and using horticulture as a therapeutic tool’. This focus on the learner experience has never waivered and is the reason we are always looking at our programme and developing new and relevant training.


“We need to bring learning to people instead of people to learning.” – Elliot Masie


Why online?

We needed to design an online platform as it was becoming clear that the format of education was changing. Our face to face courses are as popular as ever, but we knew that factors such as time, location and budgets impact on both individuals and organisations ability to attend face to face courses.

An online platform, that allowed us to focus content and information in a specific way, whilst allowing wider access, was the perfect solution, and gave Thrive the opportunity to expand the Training, Education and Consultancy team’s remit. Online programmes should always be about flexibility; an opportunity to offer more than the restricted time that a face to face course can provide, the courses are offered as an opportunity for someone who cannot, or who doesn’t want to travel to attend a course run by Thrive face to face.


“Think about what your learners need to do with that information after the course is finished and design around that.” –  Matthew Guyan


Thrive has created its courses to offer introductions to several subjects, as well as offering in depth training, all the courses look at a particular subject, and do not compete directly with the training that is offered face to face in Thrive’s programme. This blended learning is a clear and deliberate plan, allowing learners varying pathways to progress through our training without the risk of duplication. The online programme through ThriveLearn is meant to be used as a supporting provision for those who are interested in STH, and in the work that Thrive is involved with.

There is no use in an online course programme that doesn’t support all the other training we deliver, creating a successful online learning tool is a balance of general content, specific details, and signposting to the next step, whether that be more online courses as we develop our progression pathway, or onto a face to face course.

What is ThriveLearn?

ThriveLearn is designed to cover theory, the reasons behind what we do, with some of the basics and guidance on the practical activities that are part of STH. It is an opportunity to learn at your own pace, around your other commitments, giving you the chance to revisit the sections as many times as you like, as well as accessing the handouts and electronic copies of the resources.

We know that the biggest issue that learners have with an online course is that you don’t get to have that personal interaction. On our paid for provision we have created discussion forums for any questions, and in all our new courses we are adding an ‘Ask the Tutor’ discussion post which will connect learners to members of the TEC team. Offering the opportunity to ask questions and comment on the learning, like you would do in a face to face learning environment.

By creating an online platform we have been able to offer access to our courses, and expertise to a global market, we have learners from 48 countries accessing our online training, and many who would never have been able to afford to attend our face to face courses have been given the opportunity to learn about STH and Green Care.


“Online learning is not the next big thing, it is the now big thing.” Donna J. Abernathy


If you have ventured into our Moodle site recently you will see that we have been introducing courses in a scheduled manner with many more planned for launch over the coming year.  Rather than write all the programmes at once and launch on one date, we have been using the feedback from our learners, to develop our programme over time. This gives us the opportunity to provide the most up to date, and relevant online training to those within the Green Care and STH sector. We can focus solely on that one course from start to finish prior to launch, and make sure each course is tested and delivered to the highest level.

We hope that by providing an online platform for you to access Thrive’s training, gives you the opportunity to access theory and knowledge to develop you own practice. And to ask questions like ‘where to next?’ and if the answer is ‘I don’t know’ then you are always welcome to contact the team for some advice or information, our door is always open.

Author: B.Watson Stubbs or

0118 988 5688


[1] Data correct at time of writing 20.2.19


Freddie Watson Stubbs has been part of the Training, Education and Consultancy Team at Thrive since Spring 2018 and design, develops and delivers content across ThriveLearn, as well as in person to a range of bespoke groups. Thier primary interest is in how horticulture can be used to engage with young people, as well as how Green Care can really be a useful intervention for so many people.

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