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Online Training

Master Gardener Program

Applicants for this course MUST have at least some previous computer experience and feel comfortable with navigating the Internet and using email as well as basic programs such as Microsoft Word. Please DO NOT sign up for this course if you are a computer novice! Students will need to have access to a computer for extended periods (i.e. don't count on an Extension office or public library computer for working on the course). Computer specifications may be found on the "System Requirements" document. You must have a minimum of 256 bandwidth, DSL, or better Internet connection in order to view many of the lessons on this course. Dial-up internet will not work for this course. Please keep in mind that if these specifications are not met- the course may be hard to access and download time is slow- leading to student frustration. Please make sure that proper computer specifications and internet access are taken care of before registering for this class.

Click here for Computer System Requirements.

During the first week of the course, all enrollees will participate in an online orientation session about the Master Gardener program and U of I Extension, as well as an introduction to Illinois Compass, the computer program that is the framework of the on-line course. The 11 major course units will include Botany, Soils, Plant Diseases, Entomology, Integrated Pest Management, Herbaceous Ornamentals, Woody Ornamentals, Lawns, Small and Tree Fruits, Vegetables and Landscaping. Each unit will include a reading assignment from the manual, a taped web presentation to view, external links to visit, a homework assignment and a quiz. The course also includes an obligatory discussion board tool for communication between participants and with the instructor. Participants may work at their own pace but should be aware that the course has specific deadlines for completion of homework and quizzes. Students should plan on spending between 8-10 hours per week on the course. No extensions on quizzes or tests will be granted without prior approval of the instructor.

Master Gardener Applicants

Those interested in taking the online course as a Master Gardener should apply through their local University of Illinois Extension Unit Office, following the same initial procedures as face-to-face Master Gardener applicants — filling out an application form, going through the university-required screening procedure, and completing an interview. Applicants must receive approval from their local Unit Director and/or Master Gardener program coordinator (Jill Selinger at the Chicago Botanic Garden) to take the training as a Master Gardener. Master Gardener candidates must serve their volunteer hours to the unit in which they register and are accepted into the class.

Non-volunteer / Personal Study Applicants

Applicants may choose the non-volunteer/personal study option and the online course. Please email to request a registration form. PLEASE NOTE: You cannot change your mind later and decide to become a Master Gardener if you choose this option.

Training Fees

The training fee to become a Master Gardener volunteer is $250 and the fee for the non-volunteer option is $300, payable to the University of Illinois. This training fee includes either a print or CD-ROM copy of the Master Gardener manual. You must select one or the other version of the manual when you register. Registered participants will receive their manual(s) and additional class materials and course password — along with information about accessing the course for the first time — prior to the start of the course. There is also a local site fee of $50 for those applicants training to become a Master Gardener.

General questions about the course itself may be directed to the Master Gardener State Coordinator, Monica David at (217) 265-5256, via email at, or via postal mail at 1201 S. Dorner Drive, Urbana, IL, 61801.

Questions on applying to the course may be directed to Master Gardener program coordinator Jill Selinger at (847) 835-6849 or via email at