February 2006 // Volume 44 // Number 1 // Tools of the Trade // 1TOT6

Previous Article Issue Contents Previous Article

Training Educators and Community Collaborators Using a Satellite Videoconference Format

Financial security is the ability to meet future needs while keeping pace with day-to-day obligations. The Cooperative Extension National initiative Financial Security in Later Life seeks to a) help people improve personal finance behaviors leading to financial security in later life, b) enhance the capacity of local educators and their partners to deliver effective programs, and c) increase economic vitality and quality of life for families and communities. A satellite videoconference designed to increase the capacity of educators and community partners to deliver effective programs was held in December 2003. On-line evaluations indicate this capacity-building opportunity clearly met objectives.

Debra L. Pankow
Family Economics Specialist
North Dakota State University
Fargo, North Dakota

Nancy M. Porter
Co-Chair National Initiative Management Team
Clemson University
Clemson, South Carolina

Jane Schuchardt
Co-Chair National Initiative Management Team
Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, USDA
Washington, D.C.

Introduction and Background

The Financial Security in Later Life (FSLL) initiative uses innovative strategies to build the capacity of educators, distribute curricula/resources, and provide Web-based, interactive programs (Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, n.d.). Educators have flexibility in delivering programs and information, and use an on-line evaluation system to enter their impacts into a database that is aggregated and reported nationally (Sheehan, 2002; University of Wisconsin, n.d.).

A live, interactive satellite videoconference was planned to enhance the capacity of educators to deliver FSLL programming. This format was chosen due to the benefits of interaction and cost efficiency (time, money) combined with the potential to reach a large audience. (Kelsey & Mincemoyer, 2001).

Objectives of the Videoconference

Positioning for Success: Financial Security in Later Life aired on December 11, 2003. Videoconference information was available through the FSLL Web site, which contained on-line registration, coordinator and participant materials, agenda, supplementary information, and evaluation materials.

Videoconference objectives for participants were to:

  • HEAR initiative core messages, including toolkit and program updates;

  • VIEW successes of Extension colleagues;

  • EXPERIENCE marketing strategies that work, especially with diverse audiences;

  • PLAN how to use impact data to tell your success story; and

  • EXPLORE new approaches and alternative funding possibilities.

This capacity-building opportunity for educators and their community partners included information on programs in the initiative "toolkit," which contains an overview curriculum, Take the Road to Financial Security in Later Life, and programs featuring savings, investing, legal issues, long-term care, retirement, and estate planning. The agenda featured pre-taped video segments of success stories from eight states and one external partnership.


There were over 220 registered downlink locations in 45 states and the District of Columbia. The videoconference was also made available via streaming video on the FSLL Web site, and 175 videotapes were distributed.

A post-program, Web-based evaluation instrument was developed to assess changes in knowledge and plans for participation in toolkit programs. A follow-up Web-based evaluation was developed to measure the impact of the videoconference through actions taken or planned as a result of participation.

Site facilitators were asked to download and print post-conference evaluation forms. These surveys were referred to in the videoconference, and participation was encouraged. Site facilitators totaled responses and submitted congregated results on-line. Participants who viewed videotapes were given an Internet link to access the post-program survey.

Site facilitators supplied available email addresses of participants for follow-up efforts. These participants, as well as those who ordered videotapes, were contacted approximately 9 months after the videoconference and directed to a site where they could participate in the on-line follow-up survey.


Evaluation Results--Post Program

The exact number of people participating live or viewing tapes is unknown. Site facilitators reported evaluations from 206 participants at 52 sites. Most of the sites (55.8%) viewed a conference tape in a group setting. Only 42.3% viewed the videoconference live, alone, or as part of a larger group. Evaluations asked participants about the value of the videoconference materials and the format (Table 1).

Table 1.
Response to Evaluation Questions


Percent Reporting

As a result of participating in/viewing the satellite conference:


Strongly Agree

My knowledge of the FSLL initiative has increased.



I am more aware of programs in the toolkit.



I have a better understanding of strategies that work.



I am more aware of how to use impact data.



I have seen new approaches to help Extension thrive.



Participation in the conference has been valuable to me.



The format was effective for me.



The materials were helpful.




As a result of the videoconference, participants planned to become involved in several FSLL programs: 81 indicated interest in America Saves, 65 in Guidebook for Late Savers, 58 in Take the Road to Financial Security in Later Life, 50 in a Legal Education Program, 47 in Long-Term Care Planning, 39 in Investing for Your Future, and 38 in Estate Planning. Forty-four participants indicated interest in becoming involved in local collaborations related to financial security issues.

Comments by participants indicated that they planned to: become more familiar with programs in the toolkit; collaborate to offer additional financial management education programs; follow-up with agencies and organizations who did not attend the conference; be more diligent about reporting to the FSLL evaluation site; present more FSLL programs in local community, area, and state; share the information with others; and use the materials with new audiences.

Evaluation Results--Follow-Up

In Fall 2004, site facilitators emailed participants and directed them to an evaluation site developed to measure the long-term impact of their participation in the videoconference. Responses were received from sixty-three participants regarding their post-program activity (Table 2). Overall, 20.6% strongly agreed that the videoconference was useful, 61.9% agreed, and only 9.5% and 7.9% disagreed and strongly disagreed that the videoconference was useful. Over one-fourth of the evaluation participants indicated they needed more training.

Table 2.
Impact of Participation

As a result of participating in the videoconference, participants have taken and plan to take the following actions or participate in the following programs:



Plan To

Become part of a coalition to address a program in the tool kit



Take the Road to Financial Security in Later Life



America Saves



Investing for Your Future



Legal Education Program



Long-Term Care Planning



Guidebook for Late Savers



Estate Planning



Local Collaborations




Comments submitted in the follow-up evaluation ranged from "I have taken a leadership role for getting a local alliance organized" to "I like the tape because I can review information when it best fits my schedule." When asked about the format, there were many positive comments on the use of distance education, such as videoconference for educator training. These comments included several that suggested that the format was fine and that videoconferencing worked well for them. In addition, one participant commented "Satellite was wonderful, keep it as inexpensive as possible while doing a quality job."

Discussion and Summary

The use of distance education for capacity building shows great promise for educators and their community collaborators. The combination of quality content, travel savings, and interactive format made this videoconference a success and may serve as a prototype for other efforts. As the technology level across the land-grant system increases, the use of interactive distance education for professional development will evolve with greater use of videoconferencing and ultimately web conferencing.

While the response rate for the videoconference follow-up evaluation was lower than anticipated, the use of on-line post-program and follow-up evaluation was a convenient way for organizers to assess the success and impact of their efforts. The low cost of the Web-based evaluation and the relative ease of data entry are attractive features for researchers. Training for facilitators and/or incentives for participants might have increased participation in both the post-program and follow-up evaluations.

The satellite videoconference was determined to be an effective tool for building capacity and providing a professional development opportunity. Further, the videotape provides a tool that can be used for other in-service educational opportunities at state and county levels.


Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service. (n.d.) Financial security in later life. Retrieved January 8, 2005, from http://www.csrees.usda.gov/fsll.html

Kelsey, T. W., & Mincemoyer, C. C. (2001). Exploring the potential of in-service training through distance education. Journal of Extension [On-line], 39(2). Available at: http:www.joe.org/joe/2001april/rb7.html

Sheehan, K. B. (2002, Fall). On-line research methodology: Reflections and speculations. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 3(1). Retrieved January 24, 2005 from http://www.jiad.org/vol3/no1/sheehan/

University of Wisconsin, Madison, Extension Service. (n.d.). Guidelines for facilitators of satellite videoconferences. Retrieved January 8, 2005, from http://www.uwex.edu/ces/pdande/facilitation/index.html