June 2008 // Volume 46 // Number 3 // Tools of the Trade // 3TOT8

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Virtual Conferencing in Extension: Reaching Audiences, Saving Resources, and Benefiting the Environment

Travel costs, employees' productive professional time, budget debits, and unnecessary carbon emissions have prompted creative ways to deliver information. Horizon Wimba™ allows interaction between presenters and audiences through real-time presentations, multiple location access, slide viewing, live conversation, and voice and written messaging board. Three hundred forty-nine people participated in the four workshop lunch and learn series in 17 counties. A conservative reduction estimate of only one vehicle travel from each location roundtrip to training venue for each of the four workshops yields a savings of $6,000 in mileage reimbursement, 200 hours of UGA Employee time, and 3,400 fewer pounds of carbon emissions.

Todd Hurt
Program Coordinator
Center for Urban Agriculture

Keith Mickler
Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension

Maria Eugenia Abreu
Agricultural and Natural Resources Agent
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension

Alfredo D. Martinez-Espinoza
Assistant Professor
Department of Plant Pathology

University of Georgia


Automobile travel costs, employee professional time, and unnecessary carbon emissions have prompted Extension to develop creative ways to deliver educational workshops. We have taken advantage of Internet technology to implement multi-location, real-time educational programs to deliver science-based information to statewide audiences in Georgia. The coupling of the innovative technology and the personal touch of Georgia's county Extension agents and specialists catalyzes the reaching of more audiences, saving resources and directly benefiting the environment.

Materials and Methods

Educational Programs

A series of 1-hour workshops were held utilizing Horizon Wimba™ classroom software on UGA Servers and broadcast to selected counties in all of the four Extension districts.

Presenter and Participant Requirements

Operating system: Windows 2000+, Mac OSX 10.2+ or Linux*. Memory: 128 MB RAM or higher (256 MB recommended). Internet browser: IE 5.0+, Netscape 7.0+, Mozilla 1.0+, Safari 1.1+ (Browser must be Java and JavaScript enabled). Internet access at 56k or above (Broadband strongly recommended). Each local site utilized a laptop projector, speakers, an LCD projector, and a headset.


Training Characteristics

The educational sessions were programmed for 12-1 p.m. as "Lunch and Learn Series," allowing 45 minutes of presentation and 15 minutes of interactive questions from all locations.

Topics of the educational sessions included:

  1. "Landscape Foes, The Top 10 Ornamental Insects and Diseases"- Jule Lynne Macie, CEC Rockdale Co.;

  2. "Cutting up on your lunch break", Have your pruning questions answered by the experts" - Frank Funderburk, CEC Peach County;

  3. "Organic Alternatives for the Home Garden" - Bob Westerfield, UGA Extension Specialist, Horticulture;

  4. "Uninvited Guests, Common Landscape Weeds and the Latest Controls"-Todd Hurt, Training Coordinator, UGA Center for Urban Agriculture.

Training Participants

349 people participated in the four workshop lunch and learn series in 18 counties, representing all four Extension Districts in Georgia (Figure 1).

Figure 1.
Counties participating in the Educational Training Series Through Horizon Wimba™

Most of the participants were garden enthusiasts, master gardeners, and a few landscape professionals (Table 1).

Table 1.
Counties and County Extension Agents Involved in the Educational Trainings

County Extension Agent CountyDistrict
Karol KellyBibbNorthwest
Charles LancasterCatoosaNorthwest
David LinvillChathamSoutheast
Paul PuglieseCherokeeNorthwest
Winston EasonClaytonNorthwest
Amanda TedrowClarkeNortheast
Carolyn GentryCobbNorthwest
James MorganDoughertySouthwest
Sonja BrannonFayetteNorthwest
Keith MicklerFloydNorthwest
James Reaves & Louise EstabrookFultonNorthwest
Maria Eugenia AbreuGwinnettNorthwest
Steve MorganHarrisNorthwest
Hershel Standard/Willie ChanceHoustonSouthwest
Jennifer DavidsonMuscogeeNorthwest
Rick JaspersePickensNortheast
Norman EdwardsWalkerNorthwest
William CarlanWaltonNortheast

Training Program Evaluation

Two hundred and twelve written evaluations were returned. One hundred ninety-seven respondents (93%) indicated they would attend future sessions given in this format. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest, the average response on the personal value of the interactive session was 4.1. Participants expressed that the training venue was acceptable (4.6), that they enjoyed the presentation (4.3), and that they will attend another virtual seminar using Horizon Wimba™ (4.5). The 2008 Lunch and Learn programs are already in development based on participant feedback.

Benefits to the Economy

Using a conservative reduction estimate of only one vehicle travel from each location roundtrip to Griffin GA for each of the four workshops yields the following approximate savings:

  • $US 6000.00 in mileage reimbursement

  • 200 hours of UGA Employee time.

Only minor travel was required of the participants to their local Extension office.

Benefits to the Environment

  • 12,344 miles less traveled (assuming only one carload from each location roundtrip travel to Griffin)

  • 617 gallons less gas consumed (using a conservative estimate of 20 miles per gallon)

  • 3,400 less pounds of carbon released to the atmosphere (US Dept. of Energy states 5.5 pounds of carbon or 20 pounds of carbon dioxide is released with each gallon of gas burned)

We believe this technology has broad application for Extension program delivery. It is easily adapted to both internal professional development and public outreach.


We want to thank the other members of the Writer team for helping developing the training programs (Jule Lynne Macie, CEC Rockdale Co.; Frank Funderburk, CEC Peach County; and Bob Westerfield, UGA Extension Specialist, Horticulture); the Promotional Team (James Morgan, CEA Dougherty Co.; Jennifer Davidson, CEA Muscogee Co.; Paul Pugliese, CEA Cherokee County; Bobby Wilson, CEA Fulton Co.); the Evaluation Team (David Linvill, CEA Chatham Co.; David Moulder, CEC Bryan Co.; Kevin Livingston, CEC Douglas Co.; Winston Eason, CEA Clayton Co.); and the 19 county agents for advertising, training venue set up, and handling questions at their location.


Physical and chemical properties of gasoline: Department of Energy (DOE), Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) Retrieved June 18, 2008 from: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/co2.shtml