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D. PermaCulture Diploma Standard

This is the second of the two Intermediate level Courses we offer, & is equivalent to the Diploma in Applied PermaCulture that is recognized internationally, alongside the Certificate level (our Option B).

It is also an express action-learning course in team-facilitation, if you decide to take on the challenge of organizing a local Permaculture Study Circle in your area or even (depending on experience) a node of the EcoEscuelas network,

Who is it for

The PermaCulture Diploma is for people who want to go into even more depth & is the minimum reccomended if you are working on a community project or business (eg. a Transition group or an EcoBusiness), or wish to go on with the Integral Diploma (degree level).    

This is also the minimum level for people who are interested in teaching Integral Permaculture design & we normally invite the best students from this course to become apprentice teachers with the Academy & join the EcoEscuelas network if they wish.

Quick OverView

In this option, as well as offering a personalized following of your designs & projects, through a private design portfolio, we supply a lot of support to organize & then facilitate a Study Group, so that you can share the contents of the course with a local group & start in a small way to teach this science that is so important for the future of humanity.

Facilitating a Study Group is very multifunctional:

a) we learn most by teaching others, or even facilitating others' learning - so you will automatically learn a lot more Integral Permaculture than if you were just being a student.

b) it's a great way of uniting or consolidating a good support group around you of other Integral Permaculture designers, or people of similar interests: crucial for any long-term effectiveness in any of your projects

c) you can start recouping some of your course costs by charging a small fee for your Study Circle (you can even pay for all of your education with us by passing on the great learning in this way)

All Study Circles supported by NodoEspiral can have their details in the list of Integral Permaculture groups in the web  & their members can obtain the PDC (basic certification) if they fulfill some extra criteria.

At this level (not shown in the table) we also encourage you to take on bigger group designs, & invite you to participate in some very exciting international group designs we're working on, in order to test & expand your design abilities, whilst you build interesting work relationships with design colleagues all over the world.

Full Program of Classes

This below is the programme of the theory part of the course, which we will expect to see reflected in the practical work which will consists of a minimum of 2 designs: a personal and a group design (or project).    
It is most useful to embark on the course with an idea of what project you wish to move forward for yourself and your group, but you can also decide once you've started, with our help, if you don't have any clear ideas about this yet.  

Module 1 - People Care

People Care is one of the 3 ethical bases of PermaCulture ... but how do we put this into practice?    People are, as well as the context, without doubt also the most difficult aspect when it comes to realising truly sustainable projects.

"The greatest challenges for humanity are not hunger, poverty, peace, public health, education, the economy, natural resources, nor a combination of these or other issues ... but our capacity to build new social organizations capable of providing the solutions.  Our greatest challenge is collective intelligence."  

(F. Noubel)

Weekly online classes:

1) Why are we (as humans) so slow in learning about Sustainability?  
Here we will delve into the issues of thinking in a systemic way, Action Learning, how to study more effectively & we look at really understanding what Sustainability is.

2) What are the Basis of Permaculture Design?  
Here we explore for the first time the Design Ethics, Directives & Principles & we place them in the wider context of Permaculture. 

3) How do Groups function?  & why do they fail so often? 
In this class we study the cycles & natural successions of groups, some growth patterns of teams & we look at the most common errors.   We present some examples of designs for support structures that are very effective in practice. 

4) Which Communities work & what do they do differently from those that don't work?   
We look at what are EcoVillages, what other types of communities exist & we explore a little the design of communities, criteria & patterns for success. 

5) What is Collective Intelligence?  & can we design for increasing it?  
Possibly the most crucial issue of our times of change: if we don't manage to work together, we will not achieve a more rational society.   (Or the other way round ...)

6) What are 'Models' & why are they so important for Permaculture Designers?  
In this class we study the basic nature of the Scientific Method & it's problems, taking as an example of our difficulties in changing paradigms a rEvolutionary model of the human mind. 

7) What makes some people very effective at realizing their dreams whilst other people struggle?  
In this class we investigate how to increase individual intelligence, how it inter-connects with emotional intelligence, the habits of highly effective people & some ingenious tools for thinking & co-creating in powerful ways with others.

8) What is the Integral Model & how does it work?  Why is it so significant for this time in history?  
In this class we study the integral model in depth & ask why it could be one of the most important maps for directing us in the creation of more sustainable human societies.

9) How does the Destructo-Culture work?  Why is it so difficult to change?   PART 1   
If we do not understand the mechanics of current systems & especially its self-regulating (or self-defence) systems, we can hardly expect to change it: in fact it is possible that we will simply keep reproducing the basic patterns with some new external appearance. 

10) How does the Destructo-Culture work?  Why is it so difficult to change?   PART 2 
We continue investigating some interesting (& for many, counter-intuitive) models that - from very different directions, profoundly question our habitual understanding of this 'system'.

Module 2 - Design Techniques

PermaCulture is based in understanding the process of a good design in order to use this in a more conscious, effective & powerful way.   We are all designers, but what characterizes  a notable design or designer?  What works?

In this module we study the criteria of functional design & the true meaning & the conditions of the design of integrated ecological systems.   

Permaculture has quite particular ways of thinking about design, about resources, human interventions in the system & of integrating the social aspects with the physical, energy aspect & the abstract.   

We learn to look & think in a new & different way.

Weekly online classes:

1) What is Design? & Can we Re-Design a whole Society? 
Permaculture is a holistic science based in design & that is not something easy to understand in a society where we are taught (mostly) to follow recipes & copy things, or consume instead of truly create & think for our selves.      In this class we explore why learning to design, from first principles (which we always question) is so vitally important, & we look at what design is all about & how it can be applied at every scale.

2) What kind of maps and graphic representation do we have available to design with?  

Although “the map is not the territory” the more accurate and appropriate are the maps we use, the easier it is for us to know where we are at any particular time, & where do we wish to go. So learning how to make and use maps + various kinds of graphical representation of information ... is a key skill for permaculture designers.

What influence does our world-vision have?   How do our daily objectives & criteria fit in all this?  If our vision is programmed, in great, part by the "consumer dream" of our present culture ... How can we really change things?    Even though we might have good information & good intentions, it's inevitable that we  drag behind us many habits, patterns & ways of thinking that aren't very permacultural ...

There are several design structures available to use.   These consist of a sequence of steps that help the designer keep to a systematic approach.    Beyond these are the design frameworks that help us place our designs in a wider context.     The most comprehensive framework is our world-view, which greatly influences which designs we do, why & how.  In this class we will study the different kinds of structures we have at our disposal

This is something so basic that it is quite common to fall into old habits, simply copy what others have done or (even worse) use the materials 'we like', those we are familiar with, or technologies we find pleasant instead of those which do, in fact, best fit the criteria of sustainability.   In this class we look at the importance & thinking behind the hierarchy of resources & the scale of interventions, two tools amongst various which we use to ground our designs.

Observation is fundamental to any design & goes far beyond looking at something carefully.     We involve all of our communication channels in a systemic & sistematic way, in good prolonged observation.We involve all of our communication channels in a systemic & sistematic way, in good prolonged observation.    In this class we study in depth the clients interview & other observation techniques & tools.

It is easy to design if we are clear about the design principles, but much more difficult to really understand & integrate these principles in our practice.   In this class we go into more depth about the design principles, with lots of examples of each in order to understand them better.

Design is a continuous process, so being able to see whether a project is moving in the right direction & accurately evaluating progress, so being able & ready to re-direct resources & efforts in order to respond creatively to surrounding co-designs & changing circumstances ... is an essential part of the whole.   In this class we look at how to develop these crucial skills & explore some of the tools we use for creating flexibly with complex & ever-changing Life forces. 

There are a great number of design methods & it is important to choose those that are best suited to your particular circumstances & objectives.    In this class we look at some of those methods & talk about the criteria to take into account for their use. 

Here we continue deepening on the various methods of design and their use, with more examples.  See above.

Module 3 - Earth Care

Permaculture started as "Permanent Agriculture" & although very soon we realized that an ecological agriculture cannot work longer-term inside an exploitative economy or an un-just society (we need to design systems that integrate it all), the bio/ecological aspect of permaculture keeps being of central importance. 

Not only because there are great design lessons in all natural systems (it's advisable to study them in great depth), nor because it's the historical origin of Permaculture (and perhaps the most develop facet), but also because it's a level on which we can act most easily, changing our economy in an immediate form, & where we most easily learn the lessons of nature &, on the way, also of connexion and self-esteem.  

"You cannot teach anyone to be a philosopher, but you can teach anyone to be a gardener, 
and from a gardener naturally grows a philosopher."
(Bill Mollison)

Weekly online classes:

1) What is Soil? 
We could say that the destructo-culture, based on industrialized agriculture, carries a basic dysfunction, which is to see the soil as an inanimate thing, a resource to be exploited, & even something that can be seen as 'property' of human beings.
This paradigm has to change because it is at the base of great injustices & of the destruction of the most important base for life on Earth.
In this class we meet the soil as a living being, an organism of enormous complexity & importance, studying how it works in detail, from the microscopic to the global level.
To know soil intimately is fundamental for any sustainable design & to have a direct & vital relationship with this great organism helps us re-connect, physically as well as emotionally, with the Planet.

2) How can we Regenerate Soils?
"Deserts are the footprint of civilization", & this means that the most important work we have to do now as conscious human beings is to regenerate the soils that have been lost, & those that have been exploited & de-vitalized all over the planet, especially by agricultural activities.
Fertile soils are very important stores of carbon in the earth, & just with regenerating soils we could halt climate change stabilizing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.   It is vital for sustainability that we regenerate & improve the fertility of soils also because they are the support of biodiversity, important stores of water & indeed the base of all land-dwelling life & any civilization.
There are many techniques we can use, & many very inspiring examples of soils regeneration (& so of entire ecosystems) in the world.   In this class we explore several of those.

3) What are the Vital Cycles?
Gaia, the great living organism that is Earth, can be understood as a whole made out of millions of vital cycles that interrelate, each one continuously transforming & cycling the elements essential for Life (like oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, etc.) in order for these to be usable in their optimal form for each organism that needs them.
It is our great ignorance of these cycles, & of their vital importance for the equilibrium of the whole system, that has brought us to making great design errors, as humanity & as individuals.
In this class we get up to date with an essential aspect of the functioning of our home, the Living Planet & we get familiar with the most fundamental blocks that support the whole of Life.

4) How to manage Water in the Landscape?
We are probably known by other species in the Universe as 'that small noisy planet where everyone pisses in the water"  (Will Durst)   
Water is another vital element & normally very badly managed in our society, due to our usual ignorance of its importance, characteristics & inter-relationships with other elements.
In this class we learn of harvesting systems for this vital substance, how to re-connect ourselves with the water cycle, the strategies of "slow it, spread it, sink it", & we see various examples where a good management of water has totally changed the system.   Small re-designs can improve the whole environment a great deal, & this is especially true with water re-designs.

5) How does Aquaculture work?
Normally we think of producing food or biomass with terraculture (growing in earth), but aquaculture (growing in water) can be many times more productive for the same surface area. Therefore knowing how Aquaculture works is important if we want to create super-productive systems.
In this class we explore the basic principles & various good examples of very productive aquaculture (& multifunctional) in different parts of the world.
Also we explore how we can start very small in order to add mini-aquaculture-systems which are very easy to install & maintain, in our surroundings.

How to Integrate Animals in a System?
In natural systems plants & animals form a single system, where all organisms are closely inter-connected, & give each other mutual support.
But normally in systems that we humans have designed, animals are excluded or separated from their vital environment, so creating not only waste & pollution but also terrible conditions for animals & their exploitation.
In this class we explore how to learn from nature & design systems that re-weave the whole web of Life, so creating environments which are ideal for plants, animals & humans, as well as giving much greater abundance of well-being, richness & also production.

7) Food Sovereignty 
To return the control of food to each local community is something essential to creating sustainable societies.   Only installing this practice as habitual would change other systems a lot, amongst them the economy, soil regeneration & ecosystem & human health.
In this class we explore the importance of food sovereignty & how it works in practice.  
Included in this class is an exploration in some detail in the various organic food-growing styles that can be used, in small & large scale, with examples of good practice in different areas of the planet.

How to Increase Biodiversity?
Biodiversity is the variety of life in all its forms, levels & combinations. To maintain the biodiversity of the Gaian organism is of vital importance because each species represents a node of connexion in the complex web of Life which sustains us. At the moment our industrial & highly consumerist civilization is responsible for the disappearance of some 200 species per day. These are converted into human biomass on a daily basis, but we're destroying the foundation that support our own survival. So there is a big job to do. In this class we explore some direct ways of increasing biodiversity at a local level, like seed recuperation, habitat protection, & starting to change our diet in a conscious way so that it adapts better to the indigenous ecosystem of our region, instead of trying to adapt nature to our whims.

9) Trees & Forests (PART 1)
¿Why are trees so important?   If we all plant some 10,0000 trees each we can prevent climate catastrophe, regenerate lost soils, increase biodiversity and preserve vital ecosystems & cycles. Trees are the biggest and oldest living beings on Earth. But around 75% of the ancient forest have vanished due to human action. So it's urgent for us to know and understand trees, how to plant them, how to care for them,how to return them to their most important place in nature.    In this class we will learn about tree biology and tree functions as well as their influence in our culture.

10) Trees & Forests (PART 2)
At about the time humankind discovered agriculture, forests covered about 50% of the land area on planet Earth.  Now they barely cover some 30%, & falling.   This is now the single most urgent physical repairing of the environment we need to engage in, as forests are so vital for every aspect of life on Earth, safeguarding the vital cycles of air, water, earth, stabilizing the local & global climate, creating soil & habitats for a huge number of species, sustaining entire economies & our health.  Forests play a key vital role on many levels as they are so basic & even primal for humans. In this class we get intimately acquainted with Forests, their make-up, how they work & especially we learn how to design Forest Gardens: our future human habitat, if we are to survive & thrive as humans. 

Module 4 - Energy & EcoTechnology

Despite the fact that many 'Technological Improvements' haven't managed to improve the quality of life for the majority of people, but have brought more problems & pollution, we still keep expecting the arrival of a more modern technology, perhaps more ecological, that will restore & reverse the damage made.   

In fact, it is possible, but not without having more citizens with a better understanding & a wider vision of what technology is, & who also understand some basic science necessary in order to be able to think for ourselves on these subjects.   

The technology of the home, or bio-construction, is a close & important example for all of us, which will be highlighted during the course.

Weekly online classes:

1) Is our Civilization Collapsing?
Climate Change, Petrol Peak & Economic Crisis have been called the 3Es of Collapse: Environmental, Energetic & Economic.    It is important to be well informed about the basic facts & science of these, how they interconnect, their causes & predictable effects.   In this class we look at these issues in some detail, also exploring what cultural & inner meanings are being proposed & that we can make of these crises / opportunities.    What does all this mean for us as integral designers for sustainability?

2) How can we make optimum use of resources?
We could say that the key to the sustainability of any society (or indeed any design) is simply to make optimum use of resources - so this is a very important subject to clarify for ourselves as designers.     In this class we will explore how often, instead of using rational criteria for appropriateness when choosing resources (materials, fuels or technologies), like energy trade-off, we tend to use subjective & superficial criteria, like appearance, fashion & emotional attachments.      This class is about how we can learn to make wiser judgements & choices in these matters.

3) What are the fundamental Energy Laws?
There are some basic energy laws the ignorance of which lead us to make very big & avoidable mistakes, as global as peak oil or as individual as believing our salvation will come from 'free energy'. Not understanding the basic laws that govern energy also lead us to staying permanently confused & therefore open to being manipulated with regards to any new technology or 'new miracle fuel' that is proposed. No progress can be made in terms of future energy choices if the majority of the population cannot distinguish myth from science in these important areas, and in this class we aim to firmly lay the foundations for understanding energy, which are also the foundation of any good sustainable design.

4) Why Howard T. Odum as the father of Integral Permaculture?
Howard T. Odum studied in great detail the energy flows & interactions in complex life systems, creating a simple pattern-language that serves as a powerful model for understanding how ecosystems work, in useful detail.    This model includes visible as well as invisible components of a system, & is so holistic that human economy as well as minerals & weather processes can be accounted for.      He also proposed a new & provocative law of thermodynamics that includes Life.    In this class we will explore the basics of this work and explore how it is an essential base of Integral Permaculture.

5) Why Dana Meadows as the mother of Integral Permaculture?
Dana Meadows was a pioneering environmental scientist, a great system thinker & educator, a leading voice in the environmental movement.  She is best known for being the lead author of Limits to Growth, a milestone which alerted the world to the unsustainable course the western model of development was taking, back in 1972.   The book, which reported on a study of long-term global trends in population, economics, and the environment, sold millions of copies and was translated into 28 languages & inspired the birth of permaculture, amongst its many of other important influences.   A long-time organic farmer, professor & journalist, Meadows had a unique insight, passion & ability for translating the complexities of systems dynamics into practical action-points, some of this we will explore during this class.

6) What Energy Sources are available & how do they work?
Civilizations are based on the fuels they use to power themselves. The fuel determines the technologies used, and the technologies determine the lifestyles, economies, and eventually the entire culture. So the transition to sustainable fuels is critical if we wish to design sustainable cultures. This class explores which fuels can be considered 'renewable' & under which circumstances. Also we look into the various transformer technologies which are needed to make this energy available to us, how they are most effectively used and we explore what a truly 'solar-powered civilization' might look like.

7) What is BioConstruction & how many types are there?
This class provides a solid introduction of the science & technology of the home, covering bio-climactic principles as well as choice of materials, location & design context.  But we also question the great emphasis which is put on more & larger construction by the alternative movement these days.   BioConstruction or EcoBuilding are terms which technically mean 'construction which promotes life' or 'ecological building', not something which is centered - yet again - on consumerist values: putting human whims & comfort above all else.  How or when are these 'bio' & 'construction' terms used in contradictory ways?   Do we need to coin a new 'perma-construction' term?   

8) Why is Social Capital key for the future?
In this class we explore social capital as the umbrella term we use to value a complex set of inner quadrant qualities such as creativity, innovation, social skills, connectivity, emotional intelligence, knowledge, wisdom, cultural awareness, etc., all of which have a critical part to play in re-designing any technology & therefore society as a whole.    "Sustainable Development" has been criticized as a term for being inherently contradictory, but when all quadrants are taken into account, we can see that a major growth in the interior quadrants (personal development & culture) will probably be key in achieving any significant reduction in physical consumption or material growth, so 'sustainable development' is far from contradictory as a term. So how do we design for increasing and improving social capital?

9) How do we Design good EcoTechnologies?  (PART 1)
Technology is the application of science, so a good basic knowledge of science is essential if we are to design technologies of any kind. And everything that transforms energy or matter from one form to another is a technology, so science and technology really are basic for life, and certainly for designers. In this first part we explore the science of heat, flows, optics & materials in order to understand how to best design ovens, solar devices, heating & cooling technologies...

10) How do we Design good EcoTechnologies?  (PART 2)
In this second part of exploring technology as the application of science, we delve into the basic science of fluids, of pathogens & of basic mechanics & vectors in order to become better designers of water systems, compost toilets & any built structures, large or small.

NOTE THAT  ... we go adding more detail about each class as we arrive at the module in the 2011-2012 programme, & adding the links to the classes as we record them. 


Module 5 - EcoEconomics & Transition

The part that maybe we least understand & least think we can change in our world, is the economy.  

But, infact, the majority of us are actively supporting & voting for, each day, for an un-sustainable & unjust economic system.   

The central message of Permaculture tells us that it is possible that each of us stops doing that and collaborate, together with colleagues across the planet, to build the alternatives.    

This course supplies the information, tools & the basic support for this, starting (Permaculture principle) very small, from your own home, your work & social environment as a way of influencing the global.

Weekly online classes:

1) Ecosystem Flows
Flows of Energy & Resources in Ecosystems. Maximising & Movement of Local Resources

2) Money
What is Money and How it Works (or doesn't)

3) CCs
Complementary Currency Designs & Types 

Why & How of the Transition Movement 

Skills & Qualities of Social Innovators. Ethical Financing & Fair Livelihood.  Setting up an EcoBusinesses & Legal Forms

Communities & EcoVillage Design.  Social Projects & Organisation Design

Designing Effective Networks, Chaordic Structures

BioRegionalism & the Planetarisation Phase

How Paradigms Change

Designing with Myth

Like all of our courses it is an Action-Learning program which means that developing your own real-life designs - & following your colleagues doing the same thing - are the focus of our work together.    

It is based in the Permaculture Designers Manual with important additions from the Integral Sciences.

Resources at Your Disposal

0) Online e-Book - NodoEspiral of the Permaculture Academy is co-creating a great online e-book of resources & materials which follows the structure of the classes of the Integral Permaculture courses that we offer, expanding the information.

the Integral Permaculture Manual

This option has the full range of classes +
teaching materials as described in the manual

1) 12 Months with Us - Taking the online version of the courses means that you do the practical aspects directly in your home & your projects, in your own time, with the support of tutors & colleagues online, & this time we consider appropriate for completing the program without rushing.   If you wish of course you may complete the classes & design assignments in less time.

2) Option of Intensive Practical version - you can do a more intensive version of this course if you are prepared to work much faster.    It is recommended to do this version in a place where you don't have other distractions, & you can focus mainly on the course.   If you don't have a place we can help you find it.    See the GaiaSis Intensive Practicals page for more detail.

3) 50+ AudioVisual Classes  are included.   The classes have a duration of 1:30h to 2:30h which you can see at the rhythm that you prefer.   The first class teaches how to listen to the others in the most effective way possible.   Each class focuses on the essential points of the theory & the majority contain original materials which have not been published yet.   

4) Your Personal Blog each student can reflect on their path & designs, sharing their learning process & interacting with the other students.    It is a great start for a future design portfolio if you wish to go on with the diploma, & an essential discipline in order to integrate what is taught in class with your practice.   We emphasize that dialogue & exchange of experiences is one of the most powerful tools of action learning.

5) A 2hr Monthly Meeting with the tutors, where you can put questions, present your designs & share live with the other course members. 

7) Support & Mentoring for Facilitators in order to design & facilitate a study circle in your area, with support materials & a support group.   This is a great opportunity to start to spread Permaculture in your surrounding & to self-finance your PDC (as you may charge to facilitate a study group).    Also with this option the participants of your study group have the opportunity to obtain the Permaculture Certificate by paying an extra (162€) if at the end of the year they deliver 2 designs & you have been keeping us up to date with their progress & designs.

8) The Design Portfolio is a great tool for deepening understanding & to get support for your designs & is also the work-book for the Diploma.    You use the portfolio to document your designs & receive the feedback of the tutors, other students & the people that you invite.    We follow your designs & we advise you on them in a continuous manner.

Start whenever you like 

Action Learning has no beginning & no end.  It's a continuous process and so this is how we've designed this programme: we'll meet you exactly where you are, any time you decide to join.   

You just need to take into consideration that we will accompany you for the time agreed for the course you choose, from the time you join.     

This course very flexible, designed to adapt around your life, not vice-versa.

Go at your own Rhythm

although we suggest these basic guidelines:

10 Weeks per Module (25+hrs of teaching time)  supported by 
1 Online Live (recorded) Conference per week
+ Discussion Groups
+ Personal following of your Practical Design work & Reading 
+ Video + Audio materials
+ Additional materials 'to fit' (depending on your needs & level)

Designs & Practicals

Here on the left hand side of the page
 you have the programme of the theory part of the course, which will be reflected in the practical work, which consists in proposed activities + a minimum of two designs: a personal one and a group design (or project).

Don't worry if you don't have any projects in mind that you'd like to develop as designs throughout the course - and also don't worry if you feel you have too many.

Permaculture is primarily about DESIGN: and learning how to design well with anything.

Bibliography & Preparation

These are some basic text-books that we reccomend and that will be referred to during the course.  

You don't need any previous knowledge but if you wish, a preparation for the course is take advantage of the free online conferences that are offered as an introduction to this course, which were given live from november to march 2011 & are now (mostly) recordings you can watch at any time.  

As soon as you enroll you can start discussing the contents of these in more depth with others if you wish, as we will help you set up your Personal Learning Environment and pointing you in the direction of whatever aspects most interest you.

This is a pattern that will continue during the course also: we aim to follow each person very personally, encourage inter-student interaction and suggest the study materials that are most appropiate for your own personal interests, level and stage.   

Much (but not all) can be found in internet nowadays, & we can direct you straight to the treasures and help you avoid the massive confusion & a great deal of mis-information or "woffle" that is undistinguishable on the surface.      

We supply critical new materials that you will still not find anywhere else, which we believe are indispensable in order to effectively 'join up all the dots'.

Prices & Enrollment

See Costs of each option in the table below  & a note about Prices & Discounts in the Courses page

Click on the image to zoom in.

All details about how to enroll are on the Enrollment page, & note that you can enroll & start on any of these courses at any time.