December 2012 // Volume 50 // Number 6
Two New JOE FAQs & Discussion Forum Reminder
"Two New JOE FAQs & Discussion Forum Reminder" calls attention to two new JOE FAQs and talks about some of the benefits of Commentary Discussion Forums. "December JOE" highlights too few of the articles in yet another rich issue. There are a lot of articles on the Web and apps and things like that, but the December issue is "far from being all technology all the time."
Mobile Learning and the Visual Web, Oh My! Nutrition Education in the 21st Century
Technology is rapidly changing how our program participants learn in school and for their personal improvement. Extension educators who deliver nutrition program will want to be aware of the technology trends that are driving these changes. Blended learning, mobile learning, the visual Web, and the gamification of health are approaches to consider using in programming in the near future to meet learners' expectations.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on "Mobile Learning and the Visual Web, Oh My! Nutrition Education in the 21st Century"
Ideas at Work
The Search for Extension: 7 Steps to Help People Find Research-Based Information on the Internet
For Extension's unbiased, research-based content to be found by people searching the Internet, it needs to be organized in a way conducive to the ranking criteria of a search engine. With proper web design and search engine optimization techniques, Extension's content can be found, recognized, and properly indexed by search engines and people. These techniques will improve the ranking of Extension websites on search engine result pages and drive added traffic to Extension's online content.
"Apps"—An Innovative Way to Share Extension Knowledge
Extension professionals across the country are continuously seeking innovative ways to reach clientele and to disseminate timely, educational information. A new avenue to reach clientele includes the use of smartphone "apps." The "Machinery Sizing" app, which was developed to ease the estimation of tractor horsepower to implement sizing for Extension clientele anytime, anywhere, is explained as a key example for Extension professionals to utilize apps in disseminating information to clientele. There are many benefits to using apps, including information availability wherever Internet service is available on the smartphone, ease of computations of equations, and automatic updates being sent to users.
Using Digital Classrooms to Conduct 4-H Club Meetings
Using computer technology and digital classrooms to conduct 4-H Club meetings is an efficient way to continue delivering quality 4-H programming during times of limited resources and staff. Nineteen Junior and Senior 4-H'ers participated in seven digital classroom workshops using the Wimba Classroom application. These digital classroom sessions were designed to improve Project Achievement development and increase competition scores. Eighteen of the nineteen 4-H participants increased Project Achievement scores by approximately 11%. Seven hours of travel time and 26 hours of instruction time were saved by utilizing digital classroom technology in a 3-month period.
Eat, Grow, Lead 4-H: An Innovative Approach to Deliver Campus-Based Field Experiences to Pre-Entry Extension Educators
Eat, Grow, Lead 4-H Club was created as a pilot program for college students seeking to gain experience as non-formal youth educators, specifically serving pre-entry level Extension educators through a university-based 4-H club. Seventeen student volunteers contributed an estimated 630 hours of service to the club during spring 2011. The club served 23 children of students living in on-campus housing at Oklahoma State University. The primary purpose for sharing this "idea at work? is to encourage university faculty to create similar programs to serve college students seeking careers as Extension educators.
South Carolina's Model for Initiating Hispanic 4-H Clubs
Over the past 5 years, through the initiative of several county Extension agents, South Carolina 4-H has established a successful model for bringing Hispanic youth into our program. We have found the most effective method is to initiate contact and establish partnerships with the principals and ESOL instructors in the local schools. Through this collaboration, we have started several Hispanic 4-H clubs throughout the State with further expansion in process.
Enhancing Both Cooperative Extension and National Environmental Education Resources
State Extension programs can contribute to the successful adoption of national environmental education programs by making locally relevant resources available, creating reference materials to bridge between 4-H project books and other resources, and developing companion materials that supplement national materials with local issues and resources. Such activities provide opportunities to integrate research and teaching with Extension programs and build productive relationships with agencies and organizations. Seven strategies with examples from one state are explained.
Improving Alaskan Aviation Safety with Turf Runways
A leading cause of aviation accidents in Alaska is due to rock damage caused by taking off and landing on gravel runways. This article describes how Extension in Alaska planted a demonstration runway with an environmentally appropriate native grass to suppress rock damage to propellers, engines, control surfaces, and airframes. More than 200 runways have taken advantage of the program at an annual savings of 1.5 million dollars. The program has also resulted in national attention for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Mat-Su/Copper River Cooperative Extension Service District.
Tools of the Trade
Tools for Creating Mobile Applications for Extension
Considerations and tools for developing mobile applications for Extension include evaluating the topic, purpose, and audience. Different computing platforms may be used, and apps designed as modified Web pages or implicitly programmed for a particular platform. User privacy is another important consideration, especially for data collection apps. Several useful tools already exist for using mobile devices for data collection, as well as for mundane tasks like volunteer management and effort tracking.
A Smartphone Application for Landscape Plants: A Case Study and Guide to Developing a Decision-Making Application
Smart phone applications are rapidly gaining popularity, and Extension programs are eager to use this teaching tool. But developing an application can be time intensive and costly. Students in environmental horticulture at the University of Florida teamed with the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program to develop an application with an extensive plant database. The students and information technology expert from the Florida-Friendly program documented their methodology and developed helpful guidelines for anyone considering an application. With the guidelines, Extension agents can evaluate the adaptability of their program to a database=linked application and determine the feasibility of creating a decision-making application.
Viticulture Education via Blogging
Extension educators must become creative to increase impact at a reduced cost. A blog from the Oklahoma State University viticulture and enology program through Wordpress engaged industry members about grape growing. The most views were during March and June, important months in the season. Off-season months (October through January) resulted in fewer readers. Views were consistent throughout the workweek, but declined during the weekend. A visual complement to a blog entry, such as a photo, may encourage readers to view content. Overall, the blog expand the reach of the Oklahoma viticulture and education program at no added expense.
Going the Distance Part 1: Three Keys to Successfully Delivering an Extension Course at a Distance
Distance learning is common in most segments of education, and the body of knowledge is extensive. Extension can apply much of this research but uniquely educates students whose presence is voluntary. The literature suggests that successful distance-delivered Extension courses share three characteristics: course content is high quality, demand is high for the course, and the distance-delivery method is satisfactory. More studies are needed to better assess the efficacy of specific distance-delivery methods in an Extension setting, but these three keys can be used to decide whether or not to deliver a course using distance delivery.
E-Newsletters: A Simple Way to Integrate Technology with Extension Programming
Extension educators can easily include technology in regular programming. Several Extension faculty conducted a survey to determine the overall effectiveness of a electronic newsletter (e-newsletter). Results indicated that this e-newsletter had a wide viral reach, provided strong local impact in terms of confidence and behavior changes, increased website traffic, and helped establish a strong web presence. This e-newsletter also helped increase programming requests and strengthen relationships with local legislators and other leaders. The implication is that e-newsletters are cost-effective, time-friendly, and relatively non-technical tools for expanding the reach of local Extension programs, and for reaching online audiences.
Using On-Line Bulletin Boards to Gather Preliminary Information
Internet bulletin-board sessions can be used to collect preliminary, qualitative data. This method allows Extension personnel to gather responses from stakeholders about potential programming, consumer needs and desires, and preference for program delivery method without assembling participants in one location. Several other advantages exist, including time available for moderators and researchers to review participants' submissions and ability to alter questions, if needed. Disadvantages, compared to traditional face-to-face focus group session, exist; however, certain shortcomings can be overcome. Preliminary data collected can help Extension personnel identify issues to explore further including programming and opportunities for stakeholders.
Increasing Response Rates to Web-Based Surveys
We review a popular method for collecing data—Web-based surveys. Although Web surveys are popular, one major concern is their typically low response rates. Using the Dillman et al. (2009) approach, we designed, pre-tested, and implemented a survey on climate change with Extension professionals in the Southeast. The Dillman approach worked well, and we generated response rates as high as 79%. However, the method was not problem-free. We share several lessons learned and recommendations for increasing response rates with Web-based surveys and draw attention to the importance of personalized and repeated contact for improving survey response rates.
Mixed-Mode Surveys: A Strategy to Reduce Costs and Enhance Response Rates
Mixed-mode surveys present one opportunity for Extension to determine program outcomes at lower costs. In order to conduct a follow-up evaluation, we implemented a mixed-mode survey that relied on communication using the Web, postal mailings, and telephone calls. Using multiple modes conserved costs by reducing the number of postal mailings yet maintained an acceptable response rate (67.1%). The case presented here provides further evidence that using mixed-mode survey techniques provides Extension with a tool to conduct rigorous survey research while adapting to budget constraints.
Capital Budgeting for Hay Storage Decisions
This article illustrates a capital budgeting tool that Extension agents and specialists can use to assist agriculture producers when contemplating the construction of a hay storage facility. Capital budgeting is a tool for evaluating the effects of an investment choice on a business. The payback method is a quick and simple capital budgeting procedure. Use of this method requires producers to estimate hay price, facility construction cost, and potential hay loss per year assuming no storage.
Overview of the GEMS Model of Volunteer Administration (Generate, Educate, Mobilize and Sustain)
To organize and coordinate the efforts of many volunteers, a framework for volunteer engagement is needed. The "GEMS" Model of volunteer administration was developed to assist Extension professionals and volunteer coordinators to effectively administer volunteer programs without delivering the program themselves. The GEMS Model is illustrated in a spiral, depicting the continuous process of involving volunteers in community programs and organizations. GEMS consists of 18 steps, which exist in four distinct categories, including: Generate, Educate, Mobilize, and Sustain. The GEMS Model is a tool that will help volunteer administrators and leaders achieve the goals of the organization and its clientele.
Extension's Evolving Alignment of Programs Serving Families and Youth: Organizational Change and Its Implications
Extension is experiencing a trend toward closer alignment of its programs serving families and youth, notably Family and Consumer Sciences and 4-H Youth Development. Projects are more multidisciplinary and comprehensive than in the past, and, in many states, FCS and 4-HYD are also becoming more administratively integrated. Several reasons for this shift are recent developments in social science intervention theory, Extension budget reductions, and land-grant universities' long-term organizational strategies. We discuss implications for Extension faculty and the need to track and understand the restructuring process. Overall, the emphasis on collaboration and comprehensiveness provide opportunities for more effective Extension programming.
Moving Forward with Founders: Strategies for Change in Volunteer Organizations
Founder's Syndrome can create barriers to change in Extension programs. As a result, Extension staff have experienced challenges in effecting organizational change where Founders are present. 4-H Youth Development staff in Wisconsin applied a variety of strategies to move forward with 4-H programming, despite the influence of the Founders. Staff development has focused on three strategies with regard to Founders: Staff Awareness and Understanding, Training and Support, and Teaching Tools. A comprehensive educational approach that includes multiple strategies is likely to yield the most benefit to Extension staff dealing with Founder's Syndrome in volunteer organizations.
Global 4-H Network: Laying the Groundwork for Global Extension Opportunities
A descriptive study examining 4-H programs in Africa, Asia, and Europe was conducted to provide understanding and direction in the establishment of a Global 4-H Network. Information regarding structure, organizational support, funding, and programming areas was gathered. Programs varied greatly by country, and many partnered with other 4-H organizations around the world. Few content areas offered by the surveyed countries aligned with their major agricultural commodities, even though content areas were available in the United States 4-H Program. The Global 4-H Network has the potential to fill these holes and provide additional opportunities to global programs.
Characteristics of Innovations: Lessons Learned From a Statewide Mandatory Implementation of the Animal Health Network
The Animal Health Network is designed to connect state veterinarians with Extension partners and local feed retailers to deliver timely, relevant animal disease-related information to non-commercial livestock and poultry owners. The study reported here explored perceptions of key opinion leaders related to the characteristics of the Network as an innovation. Qualitative interviews conducted with13 stakeholders involved in the implementation of the Network revealed that the relative advantage, complexity, and compatibility of the Network were readily apparent to participants, while trialability and observability were not as pervasive. Findings can assist those attempting to diffuse a concept or idea with similar characteristics.
Pilot Study: A Guide to Equine Welfare Assessment
In response to growing interest in equine welfare and the need for 4-H curriculum, a pilot study of equine welfare curriculum was conducted with 4-H clubs (N=15). An overall low response rate of 26.67% was experienced. An online survey was then conducted in order to determine factors affecting involvement. Time constraints for both youth and leaders were among the most commonly cited deterrents to completion. Survey responses also suggested that following a hybrid (of hard copy and online instruction) may increase usability and effectiveness of A Guide to Equine Welfare Assessment.
Steps Toward Creating and Validating an Evidence-Based Couples Curriculum
This article describes a four-step process for creating an evidence-based couples curriculum and describes the first steps in applying this process. Specifically, we developed a self-report questionnaire to operationalize a model of healthy relationships. We gathered data from 1,204 married people in a southeastern state and conducted a series of analyses to assess the psychometric properties of the questionnaire and the predictive usefulness of the general model. Results indicated partial support for the reliability and validity of the instrument. In addition, certain aspects of the model were significantly related to positive marital outcomes.
Serving Clientele with Disabilities: An Assessment of Texas FCS Agents' Needs for Implementing Inclusive Programs
This article reports on a qualitative study to assess Texas Family Consumer Science (FCS) Extension professionals' experiences working with individuals with disabilities and their perceived skills in promoting and delivering inclusive educational programming for this audience. Study results indicate that overall Extension educators viewed inclusive programming for individuals with disabilities as favorable but also reported a number of barriers to successfully implement inclusive programs. Educators' most pressing needs included: professional development in the area of disability, inclusive educational strategies and support funds for necessary accommodations. Implications for promoting and delivering inclusive educational programming for communities are addressed.
Extension Efforts to Restore Bottomland Oaks Requires Knowledge of Both Trees and Soil
Bottomland oak restoration projects have been marginally successful because professionals often recommend conventional tree planting procedures that prove problematic in saturated soils. A reliable method of matching oak species to bottomland sites is needed prior to planting. In the study reported here, bottomland oaks were matched to hydric soils based on soil mottling. The findings suggest that as soil drainage improves, species diversity expands. Natural Resource Extension professionals should consider "active" methods of direct technical assistance and field demonstrations and "passive" methods of newsletters, publications, and pamphlets, as delivery methods to educate both landowners and professionals about this subject.
Research in Brief
Extension's Online Presence: Are Land-Grant Universities Promoting the Tripartite Mission?
Land-grant universities were established with a tripartite mission: education, research, and outreach through the Cooperative Extension Service. The purpose of the study reported here was to evaluate the online presence and technological adoptions of Extension on land-grant university, college of agriculture, and state Extension websites. Almost half of the university websites did not contain a direct link to Extension, and only 10% highlighted Extension services. Many state Extension websites had some form of social media, but only 45% had a link to eXtension. The results demonstrate the need to expand Extension's Internet presence, particularly on land-grant university websites.
Will eXtension Survive? Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Employees' Perceptions of Adopter Attributes of eXtension
eXtension was introduced in 2008 as an innovation to rekindle public interest in Extension. The founders forecasted a 75% adoption rate within 1 year. However, adoptions rates have been much lower than expected. The study reported here investigated eight perceived adopter attributes (relative advantage, compatibility, trialability, visibility, ease of use, result demonstrability, image, and voluntariness) of eXtension among Oklahoma Extension employees to identify threats to adoption. Findings indicated that Extension employees generally held negative views of all eight attributes of the innovation. Without profound changes to the innovation and process of adoption, eXtension risks failure in this state.
Social Media in Diabetes Education: A Viable Option?
As Extension educators are encouraged to implement more cost-effective and efficient means of programming, the use of Web-based social media has become a popular option. Penn State Extension implemented a social media awareness survey among participants in its community-based diabetes education program to determine familiarity with this medium, along with rates of current and future use. Results indicated a level of comfort with email and Facebook options, while many preferred more traditional methods of communication. Future research is needed to determine if this online mode of learning may be more effective in targeting a younger Dining with Diabetes population.
Electronic Commerce Adoption in the Hardwood Industry
The U.S. hardwood industry must follow the lead of corporate America in adopting e-commerce to remain competitive domestically and globally. A mail survey was conducted to investigate e-commerce adoption and trends among West Virginia primary and secondary hardwood industries. About 47% of the respondents have adopted e-commerce in their business. Factors influencing e-commerce adoption include firm output, export activity, and industry type. The top three reasons for adopting e-commerce include greater exposure to potential customers, improvement of service to customers, and improvement of company's competitiveness. The three major concerns for not adopting e-commerce include profitability, information security, and cost.
Perceptions of the Training Needs of the Newest Members of the Extension Family
The study reported here investigated the perceived importance and proficiency of leadership skills to new North Carolina Cooperative Extension agents. The researchers utilized a Web-based survey questionnaire that incorporated Leadership Skills Inventory (LSI) developed by Jones (2006). According to Moore (2003), the leadership skills are developed into six categories: human skills, emotional intelligence skills, conceptual skills, technical skills, communication skills, and industry knowledge skills. Overall, new Extension agents felt that communication and industry knowledge skills were ranked as the least important and least proficient skills.
Profiling H-2A Program Participants in Tobacco Farming: Implications for Extension
The challenge to meet tobacco's labor requirements by domestic sources has prompted tobacco growers to seek a foreign source of labor through the H-2A program. The H-2A program is the only legally sanctioned program allowing farm employers to bring foreign workers into the country to perform seasonal and temporary agricultural work. The article profiles H-2A program participants in major tobacco growing states. The results will help Extension personnel better understand their constituents' labor needs and inform the design of specific Extension programs and workshops in farm labor management, labor laws and regulations as well as labor cost-saving measures.
Agricultural Energy Information Needs of Cooperative Extension Agricultural Agents and Their Clientele
A nationwide survey of Extension agricultural agents was conducted to determine interests and educational needs related to energy and agriculture. Their highest ranked interests were renewable energy (wind, solar), farm system conservation and efficiency, and biodiesel. They perceived their clientele's greatest interests in biodiesel, wind energy, farm system conservation and efficiency, and solar energy. Regional differences were found, but similar interests included renewables, conservation and efficiency, and inputs (feedstocks) rather than outputs (end products) and processes. The results identify and prioritize informational needs and are useful for planning future educational training and developing educational materials on farm energy topics.
Technical Feasibility of Small-Scale Oilseed and On-Farm Biodiesel Production: A Vermont Case Study
This article investigates the technical feasibility of small-scale oilseed production and on-farm processing of biodiesel and livestock feed using primary data from two Vermont farms. Results indicate that small-scale production of sunflowers, canola, and soybeans, and on-farm processing of livestock feed and biodiesel are technically feasible, but yields depend on many factors. Increased local expertise, information-sharing among the farm and Extension communities, and improved access to harvesting and processing equipment can improve productivity and efficiency. Additional experience in seed drying and expeller pressing techniques should reduce fat content in the seed meal, improve meal value, and improve oil production efficiency.
Poultry Farmers' Willingness to Participate in Energy Audits
Farmers' willingness to participate in energy audits of their poultry operations is influenced by a variety of farm characteristics and farmer demographics. Data from a 2008 survey of Tennessee poultry farmers were used in a logit regression to investigate factors influencing willingness to participate in energy audits. Size of operation, energy costs, use of propane, farm income, use of energy efficiency measures, and share of acreage in row crops influenced willingness to participate. Farmer demographics, including farming experience, educational attainment and use of Extension services, also influenced willingness to participate.
Impact of a Dairy Beef Quality Assurance Extension Program on Producer Cull Cow Management Practices and Meat Quality Knowledge
Dairy producers must implement culling strategies that optimize animal welfare and meat quality to maintain consumer confidence in beef products. A Dairy Beef Quality Assurance Extension program was conducted including varying educational delivery methods, incorporating industry personnel in teaching and discussion, and interactive demonstrations. All respondents indicated that they would adopt at least one new production practice to optimize welfare and/or meat quality. Additionally, all respondents indicated that the workshop was effective at teaching producers how to optimize welfare and meat quality and improve the value of cull dairy cattle, suggesting that similar programs would be successful in other states.