April 1995 // Volume 33 // Number 2 // Tools of the Trade // 2TOT1

Previous Article Issue Contents Previous Article

Developing Computer-Verified Training Tutorials for Urban Pest Control Training

Computer-verified training tutorials can provide excellent, continuous training for urban pest control professionals. These tutorials, developed by area experts at the university level in cooperation with industry, can help alleviate the increasing demand placed on Extension specialists and agents. While this article emphasizes urban pest control, these tools can be used in all areas of Extension. In fact, one program included in the table is a knowledgbase about whiteflies, which are primarily vegetable pests. Such tutorials and knowledgbases can help in distance learning and provide basic information, allowing Extension professionals to concentrate on more difficult issues.

Thomas R. Fasulo
Associate in Entomology
Internet address: fasulo@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu

Philip G. Koehler
Department of Entomology and Nematology

University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida

Extension agents and specialists are major facilitators of Continuing Education Units (CEUs), earned through certification and recertification training, in the urban pest control industry. Providing this training requires a significant expenditure of resources for Extension personnel. At the same time, participation at CEU-approved training seminars incurs costs and limits work availability for urban pest control company owners and service technicians. Seminars may be distant from the client's work location and occur at inconvenient times. However, the continued need for CEUs in order to acquire or renew a license forces pest control operators (PCOs) to commit resources to training seminars.

Self-study manuals and videos are convenient to PCOs. The use of these training materials can be scheduled during work or at home. However, there is often little incentive to apply the self-discipline necessary to retain even short-term mastery of concepts and techniques taught using home-study manuals or videos. In addition, these training programs often fail to provide the required verification for local and state regulatory agencies.

Cooperation with Service Providers

     Rapid changes in technology ... require Extension to
     invest in and take advantage of modern information and
     communication tools and resources... We must strengthen
     ties with other service providers...  (Jones & Jost,

In responding to the same beliefs expressed in this quote, the National Pest Control Association (NPCA) provided the authors with funding to develop computer-verified tutorials on termites and fleas. In addition, the authors are cooperating with a local pest control training company to distribute tutorials on many aspects of urban pest management.

The NPCA computer training programs, called TERMITES and FLEAS, make extensive use of graphics and VGA color photographs to teach the biology, ecology, and control of the three major groups of termites and several species of fleas. Each section of the tutorial can be used without taking a formal test. However, each section requires the user to display short-term mastery of concepts in order to continue through the program.

Pest control operators and other individuals interested in obtaining verification of training can also use a testing option built into the program. This option provides the name of the test, the name of the student, the date the test was taken, and whether the student passed or failed. This optional examination, located at the end of each tutorial, requires the user to demonstrate long-term mastery.

The NPCA hopes that these programs will be the beginning of a set of nationally accepted computer-verified tutorials that state agencies will accept as proof for CEUs. The NPCA will work with these agencies and state associations to develop verification requirements. The NPCA has since provided the authors with a grant to develop a tutorial for a third group of urban pests.

The authors also licensed a private pest control training company to distribute a program called PCSTrain. This program, developed at the University of Florida, consists of individual disks, which can be purchased separately or by subscription. Each disk covers a major urban pest or pest group. Each disk is accompanied by a university Extension publication containing information on the pests as well as color photographs.

PCSTrain may be used individually or in a classroom setting. Pest control operators can use the program as a simple tutorial and as a method to earn CEUs. Each PCSTrain disk asks 50 questions based on material taken from the university publication. As users advance through the program, their scores are displayed in the upper right-hand corner. Final scores can also be displayed, printed out, or saved to a computer file. Florida regulators allow 0.5 CEUs per diskette to PCOs who file a certification form and a printout of test results. A maximum of 2.0 CEUs can be obtained per PCO each year in this manner. State regulators are more concerned with improved training than verification, but reserve the right to test PCOs on the material.

In 1993, one urban pest industry magazine signed an agreement to promote NPCA's training materials, including the computer software tutorials. In 1994, another magazine agreed to promote the PCSTrain software. As a result, a circle of cooperation of service providers including the University of Florida, NPCA, trade industry magazines, and companies is now completed.

Software Development

A computer software program can be an embarrassment, instead of a useful tool, if not properly designed. Many Extension specialists who are attempting software development encounter frustration while cooperating with computer programmers who are unfamiliar with the specialist's area of expertise. Our department encountered this problem early in the 1980s when, after one year and $100,000, the programmers asked, "What kind of an insect is a nematode?" This remark convinced the principal investigator of that project to hire computer-oriented individuals trained in entomology.

The authors are very comfortable with computer applications. In fact, the development of computer software in support of entomology is the primary job responsibility of the lead author. Both authors are supported by extensive departmental resources, including the services of a graphics artist skilled in traditional and computer graphics and a full-time entomologist/photographer. These are important factors in the development of quality software products.

Developers of computer-verified training programs may encounter resistance from state associations that receive significant funding by conducting CEU seminars. A state association, unlike a national association, usually does not have the resources to fund the development of computer programs. As a result, the spread of computer-verified training programs might reduce the funding available to them. Also, many officers of state associations, while leaders in their fields, are slow to adopt computers for uses other than billing and routing.

Developing worthwhile computer-verified training software for any area where Extension provides service can be beneficial for all concerned. Well designed software will save Extension personnel time and money, and can result in a large number of clients continually receiving instruction. Developing such software, however, initially requires extensive resources and thoughtful design (Fasulo, Sanford & Medley, 1992).

NPCA grants and revenue from PCSTrain provide additional resources to the authors for use in their work. These software programs reduce the demand on state Extension personnel for seminars, allowing them to devote more time to research, teaching, and other Extension training (Fasulo, Allen, Bellows, Evans, Flint, Goodell, Liu, Nichols, Norman, Perring, Riley, Sparks, Stansly & Toscano, 1994).

Individuals interested in the insect-related software packages (Table 1) developed by the University of Florida and distributed by different companies and associations can send e-mail to the lead author's Internet address.

Table 1
Insect and Insect-related Software
Title Subject Vendor Cost
BEES Bees and
American Assoc. of Apiculturists
(904) 392-1801 ext 143
FLEAS Flea Tutorials National Pest Control Assoc.
(703) 753-8330
$60 to members,
libraries, schools
MCRICKET Mole Crickets Univ. of Florida
(904) 392-7853
PCSTrain Urban Pests Pest Control Systems
(904) 360-0083
TERMITES Termite Tutorials National Pest Control Assoc.
(703) 753-8330
$50 to members,
libraries, schools
URBAN Household &
Medical Pests
National Pest Control Assoc.
(703) 753-8330
$50 to members,
libraries, schools
Turfgrass Database
Professional Lawn Care Assoc. of America
(404) 977-5222
Formedia, Inc.
WITTS Urban Insect
and Product Knowledgebase
Whitmire Research Laboratories
(314) 225-5371
$275 to schools


Fasulo, T. R., Sanford, M. T., & Medley, J. C. (1992). Distributing and modifying electronic databases. Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Computers in Agriculture. (pp. 725-729). St. Joseph, MI: American Society of Agricultural Engineering.

Fasulo, T. R., Allen, J. C., Bellows, T. S., Evans, G. A., Flint, M. L., Goodell, P. G., Liu, T. X., Nicholas, R. L., Norman, J. W., Perring, T. M., Riley, D. G., Sparks, A. N., Stansly, P. A., & Toscano N. C. (1994). USDA WHITEFLY: A 4.7 MB Hypertext Computer Knowledgebase on Whiteflies Damaging to Crops and Ornamentals. (Version 1.0) (Computer Software). New York: Formedia.

Jones, L. & Jost, M. (1993). Beyond "business as usual." Journal of Extension, XXXI(Summer), 18-20.