December 2011 // Volume 49 // Number 6
Citing JOE Articles
"Citing JOE Articles" discusses why and how to use JOE articles effectively. And "December JOE" describes an issue in which information technology takes center stage.
Extension Is Unpopular—On the Internet
The first Extension-authored link in Google Search (2011a) for "how to garden" was ranked an abysmal 82nd. Worse, Internet users selected the top-ranked site significantly more often than they selected the second-ranked one, and they rarely selected any site ranked lower than #10 (Granka, Joachims, & Gay, 2004). An Extension-commissioned poll in Alaska found only 16% of the "Net Generation" had even heard of Extension, compared with 73% of those 60 years or older (Dittman Research & Communications Corporation, 2010). Extension's websites are so unpopular, those who seek research-based, unbiased information will likely not find it. This article proposes solutions.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Extension Is Unpopular—On the Internet”
Ideas at Work
Place-Based Learning and Mobile Technology
When delivered on a mobile device, interpretive tours of a locale afford powerful learning experiences. As mobile devices become more powerful, content for these devices that is individualized and location-specific has become more common. In light of this trend, Oregon State University Extension developed a GPS-enabled iPhone tree tour application. This article discusses lessons learned during the design, development, and evaluation of the application and suggests locale-specific instructional content delivered on a mobile device can be an effective instructional approach for Extension educators.
Virtual Training for Virtual Success: Michigan State University Extension's Virtual Conference
Michigan State University Extension conducted its first virtual conference, attended by more than 600 staff, with a weeklong menu of over 100 online meetings and learning sessions. Providing multiple types of pre-conference hands-on training to small groups using Adobe Connect Pro was an important key to success. Other success factors were pre and post training homework, well-trained "hosts" for each session, guidelines and checklists, pre-conference equipment check, virtual office hours, and immediate and friendly help. Embedding these factors into online training can help ensure successful adoption and positive impact of this new way of meeting and sharing knowledge.
A Successful Multi-Institutional Blog for Transferring Garden and Landscape Information to the Public
In July 2009 four faculty members from four different institutions created a blog to educate consumers and professionals about plant-related issues. Online resources were used to measure the number of times that the blog was viewed and its impacts. The blog averages about 200 views a day, and 80% of those responding to a survey could name specific impacts that the blog had on their gardening and landscape practices.
Assessing the Culture of Fresh Produce Safety Within a Leafy Green Producing Community
The 2006 Escherichia coli outbreak in spinach prompted the implementation of unprecedented production strategies (Arizona Leafy Green Products Shipper Marketing Agreement) to minimize microbial risk in leafy greens. As the new procedures require assessments of physical intrusion and excrement in fields, outreach was initiated to educate adult (20-35, 35-50, and > 50 years) Yuma, Arizona residents about these guidelines and animal (e.g., pets, horses) stewardship. Pre- and post-assessments revealed that while sensitivity to fresh produce safety improved, adults over 35 years were more industry responsive. Citizen-based outreach programs, in communities where fresh produce is grown, could benefit field-level safety mitigation.
Multi-Level Partnerships Support a Comprehensive Faith-Based Health Promotion Program
This article examines the role of multi-level partnerships in implementing Faithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More, a faith-based health promotion program that works with low-resource faith communities in North Carolina. This program incorporates a nine-lesson individual behavior change program in concert with policy and environmental change. We offer an overview of the program, an evaluation of its effects on individual behavior changes and policy, and environment and practice changes and provide suggestions on lessons learned for Extension professionals who wish to partner with faith communities to promote nutrition and physical activity.
Tools of the Trade
Entrepreneurial Extension Conducted via Social Media
The widespread availability of and access to the Internet have led to the development of new forms of communication. Collectively termed "social media," these new communication tools have created vast opportunities for Extension professionals in how they perform their work and how businesses interact with consumers. This article outlines currently popular social media tools and how they can be used by Extension professionals to carry out their educational and communication responsibilities and by agricultural business owners.
Strengthening 4-H Program Communication Through Technology
Advances in technology are transforming how youth and parents interact with programs. The Strengthening 4-H Communication through Technology project was implemented in eight county 4-H programs in Northwest Minnesota. This article outlines the intentional process used to effectively implement technology in program planning. The project includes: assessing current communication tools used; evaluating participants' preferences for receiving information; educating staff on current research trends; and training teams of youth and adults with the Forrester Research Model (2011) to implement social media as a program communication tool. The process helps staff identify audience and purpose of using technology for their specific needs.
Using Technology 24/7 for Regional Assistance After Shutdown of Major Industries
People facing unemployment or who are underemployed need access to community and financial information and resources 24/7. Collaborating with community agencies and organizations, FCS educators developed a website with comprehensive local and state resources and educational tools that the consumer might otherwise not have been aware were available. Although the website was developed for five specific counties, statistics have shown that people in other counties, states and countries have found some of the information valuable. An additional tool, a Facebook page, provides updates on current issues each week.
Working in a Wiki: A Tool for Collaboration Among Virtual Teams
A wiki can be a useful collaborative Web tool for managing virtual teamwork. Although a wiki is easy to use, the challenge comes with enlisting team members to adopt a wiki for collaborative projects. This article describes uses of a wiki, challenges to maintaining virtual teams, and five recommendations for implementation by universities, agencies, and institutions.
Extension Master Gardener Intranet: Automating Administration, Motivating Volunteers, Increasing Efficiency, and Facilitating Impact Reporting
North Carolina State University has incorporated many aspects of volunteer program administration and reporting into an on-line solution that integrates impact reporting into daily program management. The Extension Master Gardener Intranet automates many of the administrative tasks associated with volunteer management, increasing efficiency, and facilitating impact reporting while inherently motivating volunteers by meeting their needs for achievement, affiliation, and power.
Web-Based Family Life Education: Spotlight on User Experience
Family Life Education (FLE) websites can benefit from the field of user experience, which makes technology easy to use. A heuristic evaluation of five FLE sites was performed using Neilson's heuristics, guidelines for making sites user friendly. Greater site complexity resulted in more potential user problems. Sites most frequently had problems with minimalist design, visibility of system status, and consistency. Best practices for avoiding these most common problems are provided.
An Automated Data Analysis Tool for Livestock Market Data
This article describes an automated data analysis tool that allows Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service educators to disseminate results in a timely manner. Primary data collected at Oklahoma Quality Beef Network (OQBN) certified calf auctions across the state results in a large amount of data per sale site. Sale summaries for an individual sale need to be quickly dispensed to program coordinators, auction barn owners, and program participants. Data entered into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet at sales is summarized using Excel database commands. A link to Microsoft Publisher then generates the sale summary for an individual OQBN sale.
A State-Specific Online Cover Crop Decision Tool for Midwest Farmers
The Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC) spearheaded the creation of a state/province-specific online cover crop decision tool with the goal of increasing cover crop use and thus the sustainability of Midwestern cropping systems. The tool allows users to input their location, cash crop and field information, and desired cover crop attributes. As users input more information, the tool immediately updates the list of appropriate cover crops. This dynamic tool thus will serve as an excellent teaching tool, as well as decision tool, for Extension personnel and farmers seeking to make better cover crop choices.
Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less a Weight Management Program for Adults—Revision of Curriculum Based on First-Year Pilot
Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less (ESMMWL) is a 15-week weight-management program that is delivered by local educators. Published research data were used to identify strategies that lead to weight loss and/or weight maintenance. The program uses the Theory of Planned Behavior by informing, empowering, and motivating participants to live mindfully as they make choices about eating and physical activity. The program provides opportunities for participants to keep a journal of healthy behaviors. ESMMWL is offered in worksites, faith communities, and county extension offices. The program was pilot tested and revisions were made. This article updates the earlier description.
Development of a Bilingual Training Tool to Train Dairy Workers on the Prevention and Management of Non-Ambulatory Cows
Dairy cows at risk of becoming non-ambulatory or downers represent economic losses and animal well-being issues for the dairy industry. Colorado State University researchers and Extension faculty collaborated with Colorado's dairy industry to create a training tool for the early identification and management of cows at risk of becoming downers on dairy operations. The training tool is a DVD that contains a short movie, a Power Point presentation, a quiz, and links to additional Web resources. All materials are available in English and Spanish to accommodate the language differences of the predominant cultural groups employed in the dairy industry.
Conducting Research on Private Farms and Ranches: Approaches, Issues, and Tips
We describe factors to consider when establishing collaborative research projects with agricultural growers, issues that can arise in establishing these relationships, and key steps that researchers can take to improve collaborations and increase the likelihood of project success. We conclude that the most important features of successful collaborations between researchers and agricultural cooperators include: (1) discussing research goals and objectives early in the project process, (2) identifying appropriate times and modes of communicating management and research activities, and (3) finding appropriate forums to disseminate research results to the participating growers and larger agricultural community.
Is Extension Ready to Adopt Technology for Delivering Programs and Reaching New Audiences?
The Cooperative Extension System is at a crossroads regarding educational program delivery and clientele relationships in a digital age. To "help prepare counties for a future that demands increased use of technology for improving work efficiencies and expanding audience outreach," an assessment team was appointed to conduct a case study to investigate the potential for adoption of technology in county Extension programs in the Oregon State University Extension Service. This article contains key findings and recommendations in response to questions the team was charged to answer and assumptions it was asked to explore, many of which have national relevance.
Land-Grant University Employee Perceptions of eXtension: A Baseline Descriptive Study
eXtension was publicly launched in 2008 as an online resource; however, adoption rates have been disappointing. The research reported here measured adoption of eXtension, willingness to participate in a Community of Practice, and adoption barriers among Oklahoma Extension employees. The adoption rate was 49%, and 43% of employees were willing to join a CoP. Lack of time and knowledge of eXtension were key barriers to adoption. Recommendations include training employees how to use eXtension and become a member of a CoP. Adopting scholarship guidelines to reward faculty and educators for contributing to eXtension may facilitate adoption of this innovation.
Leveraging New Media in the Scholarship of Engagement: Opportunities and Incentives
This article looks at how Extension faculty and administrators perceive digital scholarship in relation to their institutions' reward systems. Our survey data suggest that even when land-grant institutions have policies in place to reward alternative or new forms of scholarship, these policies are often unclear or inaccessible, are not reflected in job descriptions, and do not provide enough detail to ensure consensus among colleagues. Clear policies that reward digital scholarship and recognize the prominent role of technology in university-wide engagement efforts have become increasingly crucial because of budgetary constraints and the changing behaviors and preferences of Extension clients.
Meeting Extension Programming Needs with Technology: A Case Study of Agritourism Webinars
As clientele needs diversify, Extension educators are examining new technologies, including online tools, to deliver educational programming and resources. Using agritourism as the educational topic, the study reported here sought to evaluate participants' acceptance of online educational programming (webinars) and the effectiveness of the technology in meeting the needs of participants and Extension educators. Overall, results provided favorable support of webinars for online educational programming and illustrated the effectiveness of this technology in reaching diverse audiences. Findings suggest webinars can enhance the value, availability, and sustainability of Cooperative Extension programming.
Using Information Technology to Forge Connections in an Extension Service Project
A hybrid Extension project is introduced that uses a traditional Extension delivery model without the complete infrastructure of Cooperative Extension Services. The absence of this local organizational support and infrastructure necessitates new thinking regarding how Information Technology (IT) can support this project and hybrid Extension projects in general. The reciprocal relationship between offline and online tasks and how an Internet portal can serve as a centralized location for project continuity is offered as one solution. How IT facilitates the implementation of hybrid Extension projects such as this one can further promote the interdisciplinary adoption of the Extension model.
Promoting Healthy Eating and Exercise Through Online Messages: A Pilot Study
The effectiveness of online messages to change dietary intake and level of physical activity was assessed. Thirty-six volunteers completed a 26-item pre- and post-intervention online survey and received a total of 36 email messages about MyPyramid, food labels, healthier lifestyles, and physical activity. Participants reported increased fiber intake, decreased fat intake, and increased physical activity. Overweight/obese participants lost an average of 8.0 lbs. during the 12-week period. Online messages can contribute to an increase in healthy food consumption and level of physical activity and is a desirable intervention tool for Extension nutrition and health practitioners.
Revising an Extension Education Website for Limited Resource Audiences Using Social Marketing Theory
Spend Smart Eat Smart (SSES), a unique website combining nutrition and food buying education for limited resource audiences (LRAs), was revised using social marketing theory to make it more appealing and relevant to LRAs (25-40 years). Focus groups and surveys identified the needs and preferences of LRAs. Needs were cooking, basic health, and budget-friendly nutrition ideas. Preferences were limited text, more videos, graphics, and color. Usability testing of the revised site indicated users perceived the information valuable and the design appealing. By incorporating the needs and preferences of LRAs, SSES is now perceived as appealing as well as relevant.
Factors Influencing Participant Perceptions of Program Impact: Lessons from a Virtual Fieldtrip for Middle-School Students
Participant perceptions of program effectiveness and impact are undoubtedly a popular focus of Extension program evaluations. However, the effects of participants' characteristics and contextual variables on program perceptions and how the resulting data can be used for program improvement are less explored in evaluation studies. Using data from the evaluation of an electronic fieldtrip as an exemplar case, this article describes a study that employed the method of linear regression to examine the influences of demographic variables and program contextual factors on participants' perceptions of program effectiveness. The implications for Extension evaluation and programming are also discussed.
Mapping Extension's Networks: Using Social Network Analysis to Explore Extension's Outreach
The University of Minnesota Extension conducted a social network analysis (SNA) to examine its outreach to organizations external to the University of Minnesota. The study found that its outreach network was both broad in its reach and strong in its connections. The study found that SNA offers a unique method for describing and measuring Extension outreach and that SNA can be effectively used to examine internal patterns around outreach while informing strategies toward improved alignment and greater leveraging of institutional knowledge. The findings indicate that SNA has great potential for improving reporting, developing internal collaboration, and conducting system-wide impact evaluations.
Better Kid Care Program Improves the Quality of Child Care: Results from an Interview Study
More high quality child care is needed in the United States. This article evaluates the Better Kid Care (BKC) program produced by Pennsylvania State University Extension. Child care staff in Wisconsin were interviewed about changes they had made in their early childhood programs following participation in the BKC program. Findings show that 2 months post-program, most participants could name specific skills or knowledge they learned and improvements they made in their early childhood programs as a result of BKC. The BKC program improves child care quality, and increasing program participation is recommended.
Research in Brief
An Analysis of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service's Role in Bridging the Digital Divide
The study reported here sought to determine the perception of North Carolina County Cooperative Extension directors in regard to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service's role in bridging the digital divide. It was perceived by respondents that variables such as income, education, gender, disability status, race/ethnicity, age, and geographic location (rural versus urban) are major factors in the digital divide. Recommendations are made regarding North Carolina Cooperative Extension forming partnerships in order to narrow the digital divide in its regions, in addition to developing educational programming efforts in this area for all clientele served.
Social Media Use of Cooperative Extension Family Economics Educators: Online Survey Results and Implications
This article describes results of an online survey conducted by the eXtension Financial Security for All (FSA) Community of Practice (CoP) to determine the social media capacity and activity of its members. The survey was conducted to inform two subsequent FSA CoP programs: an archived webinar on social media programs and impact evaluation methods and a national grant-funded financial education social media outreach project. Survey topics include social media tools and access methods used by FSA CoP members, frequency of use, descriptions of content posted, number of fans/followers, institutional guidelines, and social media impact evaluation strategies.
An Examination of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats Associated with the Adoption of Moodle™ by eXtension
The use of technology to deliver programming across Extension has been addressed widely; however, little research has been conducted concerning the use of Moodle™ as a course management system for Extension. The purpose of the study reported here was to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats associated with the use of Moodle™ as an educational tool in eXtension from the perspective of those currently using the system. Findings reveal specific elements affecting the adoption of Moodle™ across eXtension that should be addressed in order to encourage further diffusion.
Positive Examples and Lessons Learned from Rural Small Business Adoption of E-Commerce Strategies
Rural small businesses struggling against the current of competition from "big box" retailers, weak consumer demand, and on-line shopping options must find strategies that work. Many are finding that adoption of e-commerce strategies is a key to survival, even prosperity. This article highlights the lessons learned from a recent case study research project of rural businesses from across the country, sponsored by the National Extension E-Commerce Initiative. Suggestions are provided for Extension educators to use these materials to directly assist rural businesses consider thoughtful adoption of e-commerce strategies.
Online Nutrition Education: Enhancing Opportunities for Limited-Resource Learners
Delivering nutrition education using the Internet could allow educators to reach larger audiences at lower cost. Low-income adults living in a rural community participated in focus groups to examine their interest in, experience with, and motivators to accessing nutrition education online. This audience described limited motivation in seeking formal nutrition education. However, they were interested in relevant, compelling tools emphasizing cooking and saving money. The likelihood of using the Internet for food/nutrition information was influenced by website characteristics. The insights from the study will help educators design online tools that capture and sustain the interest of low-income clientele.
Development and Evaluation of an On-Line Educational Module for Volunteer Leaders on Bio-Security in Washington State 4-H Livestock Projects
An on-line module on disease prevention was created for 4-H volunteer leaders who work with livestock projects in Washington to better prepare them to teach youth about bio-security and its importance in 4-H livestock projects. Evaluation of the module and usage statistics since the module's debut were collected and evaluated. The module increases awareness of disease prevention and provides practical approaches to implementation of bio-security, but is underused by the target audience, possibly due to leaders' lack of computer access, time, or awareness of the module. Promotion of the module and incentives must be explored to increase module usage.
Social Network Analysis: A Tool to Improve Understanding of Collaborative Management Groups
Social network analysis (SNA) is a tool used to analyze the connections between people and organizations. However, despite its usefulness to the study of these relations, there have been relatively few applications to situations in agriculture and natural resources. SNA was applied to the study of a watershed collaborative group in southern Arizona. We found that even a fundamental application of SNA was valuable to a watershed initiative and, furthermore, believe that U.S. Extension professionals are positioned to advance the effectiveness of participatory resource management groups through more widespread use of this methodology.
Insights from Spanish-Speaking Employees in the Iowa Horticultural Industry
Addressing the needs of Latino workers can help improve working conditions, job satisfaction, and productivity of both employees and the companies hiring Latino workers. The study reported here assessed educational needs, communication gaps, and technical skills of Latino workers working in the horticultural industry in Iowa—an ethnic group that is relatively new to Iowa. Focus groups were conducted with Latino workers and produced topics for educational programming and suggestions that could improve communications between predominantly English-speaking managers and Spanish-speaking Latino employees, and the horticultural knowledge of the Latino employees.
An Assessment of Current Feeding Practices in Louisiana Dairy Farms
A survey of producers was conducted to determine feeding practices on Louisiana dairy farms. A 38.5% response rate among dairy farmers was obtained. Declared herd size averaged 108 Holstein milking cows producing 15,613 lbs/cow/year. Most producers relied on pastures as primary forage source for the cows. Pastures were supplemented with concentrates offered twice daily. Most farmers formulated rations and reported knowing dietary protein, but less than 20% of the respondents acknowledged dietary P content. Producers and company nutritionists should be targeted by Extension programs intended to inform about P feeding recommendations and environmental effects of excess P.