Spring 1989 // Volume 27 // Number 1 // Ideas at Work // 1IAW2

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Distance Education: Making Videoconferencing Work


Lynda C. Harriman
Assistant Director, Home Economics Program
Cooperative Extension Service
Oklahoma State University-Stillwater

Today's high tech world is rapidly moving us into the information age. It's affecting the way we do Extension business by changing the face of education. Using information technology effectively to deliver education is an important challenge. As a distance education technique, videoconferencing has the potential to reach people in urban and remote rural locations. A major goal of Extension educators using this delivery technique is making it acceptable to Extension professionals and clientele.1

Videoconference Checklist

The following checklist identifies critical steps in planning and conducting a successful videoconference:


  • Be alert to the availability of the intended audience.
  • Consider demands on field staff time.
  • Update staff on scheduled broadcasts, changes in broadcasts, satellite and channel information.
  • Schedule most videoconferences for the program year before submission of plans of work by field staff.


  • Prepare special promotional materials for videoconferences.
  • Get promotional materials to field staff at least one month, and ideally two months, before a scheduled videoconference.
  • Inform field staff if promotional materials are sent to a cooperating group, organization, or agency so promotional efforts can be coordinated.


  • Prepare field staff for their role through on-site orientation conducted in several locations, or through orientation conducted via satellite.
  • Include these components in the orientation:
    • Purpose and content of the upcoming production.
    • Target audience.
    • Clarification of coordinator's role in introducing the videoconference to local participants, evaluating the presentation, and conducting concurrent and follow-up educational activities.
    • Coordinator's discussion guide.
    • Fact sheets, bulletins, and other educational material to be provided to participants.
    • Name and phone number of one campus-based contact person.

Program Design and Format

  • Keep presentations short and interspersed with charts, graphs, or on-location shots.
  • Feature short interviews with experts to add interest.
  • Keep videoconferences short (1 to 1 1/2 hours).
  • Enhance the auditory quality of the presentation through appropriate music and narration.
  • Improve the visual presentation through demonstrations, colorful visuals, and action shots.2


Distance education provides a new set of challenges to Extension. Conscious effort is required to assure that this educational method is facilitating education, not just providing information.3 Making videoconferencing work means paying special attention to scheduling, promotion, and overall program design and format.

Because distance education is a delivery method of the future, Extension educators must prepare by making it an effective way to help people put knowledge to work.


1. "Project in Agriculture Utilizing an Integrated Telecommunications Network," Second Annual Report to W. K. Kellogg Foundation and Oklahoma State University (Stillwater: Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, May 1987) and Janice R. Stewart and LuAnn Soliah, "Creating Educational Excellence," Journal of Extension, XXV (Fall 1987), 34-36.

2. Marilyn Burns, "Making Your Point with Visual Images," Forecast, XXXIII (November/December 1987), 8, 10, 60.

3. Randy R. Weigel, "Is Extension Changing Its Mission?" Journal of Extension, XXIV (Spring 1986), 30.