April 1997 // Volume 35 // Number 2 // Ideas at Work // 2IAW1

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Internet Childhood Safety and Health Resource Guide

Purdue University's Agricultural Safety and Health Program, historically a paper-based directory of childhood safety and health resources, is now available on the World Wide Web (WWW). Advantages to WWW publication include: widespread availability, continuous updates, and low distribution costs. Disadvantages include: lack of acceptance by some Extension clientele, loss of portability, and initial difficulties in finding the publication's WWW location. The use of on-line resources has been moderate to date. However, a significant increase in utilization is expected as Internet access becomes less expensive and Extension educators and external clientele become more accustomed to using on-line resources.

Steven A. Freeman
Extension Safety Specialist
Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana
Internet Address: sfreeman@ecn.purdue.edu

Scott D. Whitman
Agricultural Communication Specialist
Agri-Link Communication Services
Dayton, Minnesota
Internet Address: stwhitman@wavetech.net

Roger L. Tormoehlen
Extension 4-H/Youth Specialist
Purdue University
Internet Address: roger_tormoehlen@four-h.purdue.edu

Karla M. Embleton
Educational Media Development Specialist
Purdue University
Internet Address: embleton@ecn.purdue.edu


The Childhood Safety and Health Resource Guide, published since 1990 as part of the Rural Indiana Safer Kids (RISK) Project of Purdue University's Agricultural Safety and Health Program, is a comprehensive listing of educational materials and organizations associated with child safety and health. The Resource Guide was developed to assist safety professionals, educators, and volunteers in preparing educational programs addressing childhood safety and health issues.

Traditionally, the Resource Guide has been promoted and distributed exclusively within Indiana. The potential audience, however, could include users from across the nation, or even internationally, since the Resource Guide features information and abstracts for resources applicable to a broad array of child safety issues in many geographic areas.

To date, the RISK Project has printed and distributed over 10,000 copies of the Resource Guide. Because of this demand, the associated costs of printing and distribution have become a major concern. For example, the last press-run of 1,000 copies cost $1.29 per copy, not including the additional costs associated with handling and mailing.

To compensate for increasing financial demands on limited resources, Extension must seek alternative and supplementary channels for delivering educational materials and information, including partnerships, master volunteer programs, regional offices, and information centers (Laughlin and Schmidt, 1995). In regard to providing access to educational resources, information centers possess distinct advantages (a) clientele serve themselves on their own time, and (b) a great deal of information can be stored and managed efficiently using limited resources. However, traditional information centers also have disadvantages, such as (a) lack of interactivity with educators, (b) potential for obsolescence, and (c) the need for users to search through volumes of material to locate desired information.

Through current information technology, "virtual" libraries on the Internet's world wide web (WWW) have been shown to offer the advantages of central information centers while also providing the benefits of inter-activity and user-defined information search and retrieval. Extension researchers at Oregon State University, for example, established an experimental "on- line" electronic publication center. Users reported that the most useful information they retrieved electronically were abstracts and bibliographic data on educational material distributed by the university (DeYoung, Harris & Larsen, 1995).

In an effort to reduce costs and enhance resource utilization, Purdue's Agricultural Safety and Health Program made the entire Childhood Safety and Health Resource Guide available on-line via the WWW in April 1995. The "WWW Resource Guide" can be found at the following Universal Resource Locator (URL):



The printed Resource Guide included major sections divided by audio-visual materials, printed materials, organizations with child safety interests, and safety agencies offering toll-free numbers. The audio-visual and printed material sections each contained 13 different topical subsections ranging from automobile safety to school safety.

The on-line version of the Resource Guide was developed using Adobe FrameMaker [tm], the same document processing software used to develop the printed Resource Guide. The WWW development process consisted of three steps: (a) preparing the Resource Guide document files, (b) incorporating hypertext mark- up language (HTML) code and links within the document, and (c) adding indices and links to take advantage of hypertext organization available in HTML documents.

The process of converting the text of the original document to an on-line compatible version first involved saving each subsection of the original document as a separate ASCII text file. HTML code was then added to each of the individual text files containing the resource abstracts. Once all abstract files were encoded, HTML code was added to the introductory pages and the pages describing child safety organizations.

Next, a table of contents was constructed to link all of the files together in a hypertext format. During this process, additional menus were added to further facilitate navigation through the "WWW Resource Guide" so users could more quickly locate items of interest. The final step in the development involved coding a hyperlinked alphabetical index to each item in the directory.

Initial Utilization

The "WWW Resource Guide" was developed primarily for use by Cooperative Extension staff, other educators, and volunteer leaders. The "WWW Resource Guide" went on-line in April 1995, and initially received limited use.

In the spring of 1996, the 278 county Extension professionals in Indiana were surveyed, via e-mail, concerning their use of the Internet, and in particular, their use of the "WWW Resource Guide." Of 87 who responded, 74 had WWW access. However, only two of the respondents with WWW access had used the "WWW Resource Guide." Most of the respondents indicated that they were not aware of the page, but several indicated that since they had become aware of it, they intended to access the site in the future.

When asked to identify barriers to using the "WWW Resource Guide," the predominant answer was that it was currently too expensive to access the WWW. Many felt that as the cost of accessing the WWW dropped they would begin using the "WWW Resource Guide." [Note: For many county Extension offices in Indiana, Internet and WWW access is only available through a modem with a long distance phone call. This arrangement is not only cost prohibitive, but also monopolizes a phone line used to conduct other office business.]

Current Utilization

As county Cooperative Extension Service offices in Indiana gain more cost effective Internet access and Extension educators become accustomed to using on-line resources, a significant increase in utilization is expected. Additionally, with the apparent trend toward more widespread public access to the Internet, it is anticipated that more members of Extension's consumer audience will seek information directly through on-line resources.

To prepare for the expected increase in WWW access of Extension information, the Agricultural Safety and Health Program at Purdue University has expanded its WWW presence by establishing a central program home page (http://pasture.ecn.purdue.edu/~agsafety) including information about on-going research and programs, associated programs (e.g., RISK Project), and links to other agricultural safety and health sites on the WWW. Part of this process involved up-dating the "WWW Resource Guide" (adding tables and direct links to source information) and making it accessible from the Agricultural Safety and Health Program's home page. The up-dated version of the "WWW Resource Guide" went on-line 9 April 1996.

To date (April 9, 1996 to March 6, 1997), the revised "WWW Resource Guide" has received 415 accesses, or "hits," by 262 individual hosts. The largest number of hosts have been US Educational (EDU), US Commercial (COM), and Network Providers (NET). Educational domain users represent the majority of repeat users. There have also been several international users from Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the Philippines.


The potential advantages of WWW publication and distribution are significant: (a) information can be made available to a great many potential users; (b) on-line data can be updated at any time, ensuring that information remains current; and (c) printing and distribution costs are eliminated. On-line publishing has its disadvantages as well: (a) users must first know the site's URL before they can access and retrieve the information; (b) electronic publications lack some desirable properties of the more "tangible" paper-based materials (e.g., portability -- books can be more easily carried and distributed by hand), and (c) it is likely that some portion of the intended audience will never use the Internet or will always prefer paper- based formats.

Internet and WWW resources have become powerful tools for information exchange. The potential for cost-effective distribution of educational information and resource materials is immense. However, at present much of Extension's internal and external audience is struggling to keep up with the rapid change in information technology. If on-line publications are to realize their potential as a viable alternative to paper-based resources, significant efforts must be made to publicize their availability and location, and to convince target audiences of the practicality and efficiency of obtaining information and resource materials on the WWW.


DeYoung, B., Harris, P., & Larsen, L. (1995). Virtual communities and university outreach. Journal of Extension, 33, (1) Available on-line at www:http://www.joe.org/.

Laughlin, K.M., & Schmidt, J.L. (1995). Maximizing program delivery in Extension: Lessons from Leadership for Transformation. Journal of Extension, 33, (4) Available on-line at www:http://www.joe.org/.