Winter 1991 // Volume 29 // Number 4 // Feature Articles // 4FEA6

Previous Article Issue Contents Previous Article

Videos for Self-Study

Teenagers' feelings of self-worth affect all aspects of their lives and strongly influence the realization of their potential. We as Extension educators have a responsibility to help each individual with whom we work to develop a positive feeling of self-worth. Teens, just by the nature of their transition status, are especially vulnerable to experiences that may alter their self-esteem for the rest of their life. We must accept this responsibility in all of our programming areas.

Glenn D. Israel
Associate Professor
Department of Agricultural and Extension Education
Florida Cooperative Extension Service
University of Florida-Gainesville

Dewayne L. Ingram
Professor and Chair
Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
University of Kentucky-Lexington

Self-study educational programs aren't new to Extension (learn-by-mail programs have been used for years), but what's new is using videotapes and workbooks to deliver an educational program. However, little is known about the potential of different clientele groups using this method. Given the diversity of Extension audiences, two key questions are: "What factors affect participation in such self-study programs?" and "How can Extension professionals increase the likelihood of participation in self-study educational programs using videotapes and workbooks?" Data from a survey of small farm operators were used to explore answers to these questions and recommend ways for increasing use of self-study programs by small farm operators and other clientele groups.

Influences on Participation

Based on Brown's study of the diffusion of innovations, the use of videotapes and workbooks would be influenced by a number of factors, including access to the educational materials and availability of alternatives.1 Farmers who own, or have access to, a video cassette recorder (VCR) would be more likely to participate in a self-study program than those who don't. Similarly, Extension offices in metropolitan counties would provide better access because they have more resources (number of copies of tapes, VCR to use or loan) than offices in nonmetropolitan counties. This would likely increase participation in a self-study program more for small farm operators from metro counties than for those from nonmetro counties.

The distance that a farmer or a family member must travel to the Extension office to borrow tapes and obtain workbooks would also reduce access, thereby reducing participation in a self- study program. Finally, a large staff of agriculture agents in a county, relative to the number of farmers, means that more clientele would be reached on an individual basis, thus reducing interest among clientele to use videotapes and workbooks.

Potential users' capabilities, needs, and resources also affect the probability of participation.2 Given the reading skills needed to fully comprehend many Extension publications,3 small farm operators with greater education would be more likely to participate in a self-study program using videotapes and workbooks than those with less education.4

Similarly, management skills can reduce the effort required to use workbooks and videotapes in a self-study educational program. Farmers considering production of a new enterprise or planning to increase their emphasis on faming would be more motivated to participate. On the other hand, farm households made up of retirees may have less need, or the physical capacity, to change their farming operation than those from households with younger operators.

Having an off-farm job could increase the probability of participating in a self-study program because small farm operators with an off-farm job may not have enough flexible time to attend Extension meetings or repeatedly visit the Extension office. Other factors-farm size, farm diversity, and family income-have been significant in influencing adoption of agricultural innovations, but evidence about the effect of these is less clear for communication technologies (teletext and videotext).5

Small farm operators who had gotten information from Extension during the past year were more likely to trust in Extension's ability to deliver useful information.6 If small farm operators have developed a "trust relationship" with their county Extension Service, the risk of them finding little benefit from the information in a self-study program should be reduced. These farmers could be expected to report a higher likelihood of participating in a self-study program using videotapes and workbooks.

Data and Methods

Data were obtained from a random sample of 1,350 (from a list of 7,951) small farm operators in six Florida counties. The six counties represent metropolitan and nonmetrpolitan areas of north central and north Florida. A mail survey was conducted using the total design method.7 Of the 1,015 farmers contacted, 41.3% (n=418) provided usable responses. Respondents who had farms with over 150 acres or missing data were excluded, leaving 286 (28%) respondents for the analysis below. We checked the representativeness of those who responded to the mail survey versus those who didn't and found no significant differences.8

The survey data were supplemented with data from secondary sources. The dependent variable, based on the question "How likely are you to participate in a self-study educational program using videotapes and workbooks?" was measured with ordered response categories.9. Multiple logistic regression was used to estimate the probability of participation in a self-study education program for a given individual.10 Based on the model, the percentage of farmers who are predicted to participate was estimated for selected farmer types.


Several factors significantly influenced small farm operators' reported likelihood of participating in a self-study educational program. Of the measures related to access and availability of alternatives, having a VCR had a strong positive affect on interest in participating in a self-study program. Contrary to expectation, metro farmers were less likely to report a high probability of participating. Distance to the county Extension office and the number of agriculture agents didn't significantly affect the farmers' reported likelihood of participation.

Of the measures related to users' capabilities, needs, and resources, increased levels of management skills, educational attainment, and having an off-farm job were associated with increased responses of "somewhat" or "very likely" for participating in a self-study program. Need for information had a positive affect on the likelihood of participation for one measure (respondents who plan to increase their emphasis on farming), but not another (farmers who considered starting a new enterprise).

Retired and aging small farm operators also had a lower likelihood of participating than farmers with younger families. Although farm size and farm diversity didn't significantly affect the farmers' reported likelihood of participation, higher family income decreased the likelihood of participation (perhaps because of the decreased need to improve farm productivity and profits). Use of Extension as a source of information during the past year increased the reported likelihood of participation in a self- study program using videotapes and workbooks.

The combined effect of the factors described above is illustrated by the predicted probabilities for participation for selected profiles11 of small farm operators (see Table 1). This shows that access to a VCR dramatically increases the probability of participation for farmers as a whole, and particularly for "expanding part-timers" and "sundowners." For example, expanding part-timers who have a VCR and farm in a nonmetro county are predicted to be very likely to participate at six times the rate of this same group farming in a nonmetro county and having no VCR. Comparison of farmer profiles for a given level of access to VCRs and metro status also show wide differences in the predicted probability of participation. These differences are most pronounced when farm operators have a VCR and farm in a nonmetro county and least for metro farmers who don't have a VCR.

Table 1. Probability of participation.
Predicted likelihood of participation
Not at
all likely
Uncertain Somewhat
1. Have a VCR and nonmetro farm
All farmers 15.2% 28.5% 37.0% 19.3%
Expanding part-timers 10.9 24.0 39.3 25.8
Sundowners 24.5 34.0 29.9 11.6
Subsistence farmers 62.2 25.6 9.7 2.5
Aging farmers 88.1 8.9 2.4 0.6
2. Have a VCR and metro farm
All farmers 29.4% 35.0% 26.3% 9.3%
Expanding part-timers 22.3 33.2 31.5 13.0
Sundowners 43.0 33.7 17.9 5.4
Subsistence farmers 79.3 15.0 4.6 1.1
Aging farmers 94.5 4.2 1.1 0.2
3. Have no VCR and nonmetro farm
All farmers 57.4% 28.1% 11.4% 3.1%
Expanding part-timers 48.2 32.0 15.4 4.4
Sundowners 71.0 20.4 6.9 1.7
Subsistence farmers 92.6 5.6 1.5 0.3
Aging farmers 98.2 1.4 0.3 0.1
4. Have no VCR and metro farm
All farmers 86.8% 9.8% 2.8% 0.6%
Expanding part-timers 68.4 22.0 7.7 1.9
Sundowners 85.1 11.0 3.2 0.7
Subsistence farmers 96.7 2.5 0.7 0.1
Aging farmers 99.2 0.6 0.2 0.0


Although it's unrealistic to expect all of any clientele group to participate in self-study educational activities, the findings suggest several ways to increase the probability of clientele groups using videotapes and workbooks. First, access to VCRs needs to be increased. Thirty percent of our sample didn't own one. County Extension offices may need to get additional VCRs and offer a loaner program to clientele or work with others, such as libraries or local video rental stores, to provide access to a VCR at a nominal or no cost.

A second strategy involves the development of promotional messages for the self-study program to specific segments of the target audience. For example, use of a self-study program among clientele with limited "free time," such as small farm operators who have an off-farm job, can be increased by emphasizing the convenience and flexibility of participating in the program. A third strategy involves developing a trust relationship with larger numbers of current or potential Extension clientele. As agents nurture a trust relationship with new clientele through delivery methods such as individual consultation, demonstrations, and meetings, they can increase the number of clientele who "graduate" to using self-study programs. An agent's ability to graduate clientele will be critical to resolving the difficulty of increasing the number of trust relationships without increasing the time that he or she must work.


1. L. Brown, Innovation Diffusion: A New Perspective (New York: Methuen, 1981).

2. Ibid.

3. E. Johnson and S. Varma, "Are Extension Publications Readable?" Journal of Extension, XXVIII (Spring 1990), 35.

4. E. M. Rogers and F. F. Shoemaker, Communication of Innovations: A Cross-Cultural Approach (New York: Free Press, 1971).

5. E. A. Abbott, "The Electronic Farmers' Marketplace: New Technologies and Agricultural Information," Journal of Communication, XXXIX (No. 3, 1989), 124-36 and Rogers and Shoemaker, Communication of Innovations.

6. G. D. Israel, "Reaching Extension's Clientele: Patterns of Preferred Information Channels Among Small Farm Operators," Southern Rural Sociology, publication pending.

7. D. A. Dillman, Mail and Telephone Surveys: The Total Design Method (New York: John Wiley, 1978).

8. Comparison of the sample data with characteristics for farms with 1 to 179 acres in the Census of Agriculture shows a close correspondence.

9. Data were coded as follows: "not at all likely" responses were assigned a value of 0 for the analysis and "uncertain," "somewhat likely," and "very likely" were assigned 1, 2, and 3, respectively. This assumed that "uncertain" reflected a greater probability of participation than a "not at all likely" and less than a "somewhat likely" response.

10. Variables in the analysis were: (a) had a VCR, (b) miles to CES office, (c) farmed in a metro county, (d) number of agricultural agents per 1,000 farmers, (e) educational attainment, (f) management index, (g) family income, (h) considering a new enterprise, (i) planned to increase farming emphasis, (j) retired and aging family, (k) used CES last year, (l) number of acres, (m) number of enterprises, and (n) had an off-farm job. The model accounted for 18.1% of the variation in responses about participating in a self-study program. 11. The profiles are based on combinations of characteristics of farmers responding to the survey. Farmers labeled "expanding part -timer": (a) used CES last year, (b) planned to increase their emphasis on farming, (c) weren't retired, (d) scored 1 (scale of 0 to 4) on the management skills index, (e) had an off-farm job, (f) had a college degree, and (g) had a family income of $40,000 or more. "Sundowners" were similar to expanding part-timers, except that they didn't plan to increase their emphasis on farming. "Subsistence farmers": (a) didn't use CES last year, (b) didn't plan to increase their emphasis on farming, (c) weren't retired, (d) scored 0 on the management index, (e) had no off- farm job, (f) had a high school degree, and (g) had an income of $10,000-$15,000. "Aging farmers": (a) didn't use CES last year, (b) didn't plan to increase their emphasis on farming, (c) were aged or retired, (d) scored 2 on the management index, (e) had no off-farm job, (f) had a high school degree, and (g) had an income of $40,000 or more.