Darrell A. Dromgoole, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Scott Cummings, Associate Department Head and Program Leader; Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Effective educational programs produce clientele change when the program is purposefully designed, organized, and delivered. Change techniques or delivery methods should be selected for a specific educational purpose with clearly defined “teaching points that are strategically linked to program objectives and evaluation methods.” The best change techniques or program delivery methods depends on the target audience, educational objectives, type and context of the educational information being presented, characteristics of the educational delivery method, the sequence of educational events, and the method’s efficacy in providing the desired measurable outcomes (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
The utilization of mass media methods enables Extension educators to enhance their teaching efficiency. News articles radio, television, publications, newsletters and the internet provide useful tools to reinforce educational content delivered in individual and group educational settings. Using mass media makes it possible to disseminate educational content to a large number and more diverse clientele (Seevers & Graham, 2012). The internet is a great path in which to disseminate and engage a broad audience (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Though not as effective as hands-on training, mass media economical and efficient to deliver educational content (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
News articles are considered a medium of disseminating information, through print or electronic formats. For example, an article in a newspaper or an article on a website. The fundamental element of news articles in Extension program delivery is to disseminate information to clientele who are not participating in other Extension educational programs (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Educational meetings impact is limited to those in attendance, but well-written news article providing a solution to a problem will be read by a large number of people (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
An Extension news article might be a feature story advocating the practices of a result demonstration or an article with information of a seasonal interest. As an example, in 2018 Extension educators in Texas provided information regarding a fall armyworm outbreak that impacted both homeowners and agriculture producers.
New articles and radio are the least expensive mass media teaching methods when the rate of adoption is considered (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Lower confidence in the reliability of newspapers and reading comprehension levels of some segments of the population are the few limitations to the utilization of news articles in Extension teaching methods (Seevers & Graham, 2012). As local newspaper circulation decreases, the Extension educator’s use of newspapers as teaching venues has decreased as well (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Radio is an accessible form of mass media (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Radio stations target audiences vary according to language, age, and income demographics, making it easier for Extension educators to reach selected audiences.
Technology has increased radio’s efficiency in reaching large amounts of people, through computer networks and satellite links (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Specifically, radio broadcasting is a great method of disseminating emergency or emerging information to the local clientele, due to the presence of radios in almost every home and vehicle (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Extension educators can utilize the radio to disseminate information on healthy diets; inform the public regarding the activities of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service; publicize meetings, tours, field days, tour, workshops, and other scheduled activities; and teach improved production practices (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Additionally, Extension educators may have a daily program, a weekly talk show, or use subject matter experts to answer call-in questions (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Television is a popular teaching tool for some Extension educators especially in urban areas (Seevers & Graham, 2012). This method is more personal than radio, since the audience can both see and hear the Extension educator (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Utilizing television, Extension educators can provide a “how to” lesson and reach an audience many times larger than meetings (Seevers & Graham, 2012). An example might be providing a demonstration related to preparing a healthy meal.
Few studies have reported behavioral changes can occur in educational programming using the television (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Wagenet, Lemley, Granthan, Harrison, Hillman, Mathers and Younge (2005) reported that there were no knowledge transfers during environmental educational programming effort utilizing television. Today, networks like RFD- TV feature Extension segments on a regular basis (Seevers & Graham, 2012). The link below illustrates very effectively how Jayla Fry, Program Specialist-Master Gardner with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension utilizes television in program delivery:
Extension publications have long been a staple in educational tools available to Extension educators. They typically focus on a specific topic and are made up of scientific information and real-world application suggestions for the public. Extension publications play an important role in current mass communication efforts and have many formats including, bulletins and fact sheets (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Publications strengthen and reinforce the news article, radio show, television broadcast, guides, pamphlets, brochures, newsletters and other forms of printed material (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
They are distributed in connection with office calls, farm or home visits, phones calls and Extension educational meetings (Seevers & Graham, 2012). They can be distributed electronically via email to address specific subject matter topics. Currently, electronic format of publications allow Extension educators to provide the most current information quickly (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Despite the advances in communication technology and availability of information, printed information remains a preferred delivery system for some clientele. Rodewald (2001) theorized that clientele tends to want answers more rapidly than the Extension educator can develop them; the fact sheet can provide immediate, credible, easily comprehended information. Fact sheets and other Extension publications also assist agents to respond to a wider range of topics (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Newsletters can be utilized to stimulate interest in a subject, heighten awareness of an issue, provide timely subject matter information, announce meetings, etc. However, this educational method can be very dynamic if coupled with other educational methods to underpin educational content.
An example of this might be a series of newsletters targeting crop producers where educational content is linked to topics covered in a series of workshops. This scaffolding of educational content enables the clientele to move on an educational continuum from basic concepts to more complex concepts. Ultimately, if newsletters are utilized strictly to announce events and serve a calendar for an upcoming event the Extension educator is not deriving benefit from on the potential effectiveness of this educational tool offers.
With the use of electronic publishing software, today’s newsletters can be made very attractive and appealing to the reader. These newsletters can be the traditional paper mail-out version or can be electronically distributed which is a more common means of distribution. An excellent example of a couple of newsletters distributed electronically is the Focus on Entomology Newsletter and the Williamson County Turn Row Times.
While mass media instruction can be very effective, this method also has some disadvantages. Figure 1 provides some of the advantages and disadvantages to mass/social media methods (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Figure 1. Advantages and disadvantages of mass media teaching methods.
These mass media methods can be very effective if the Extension educator maintains a balance of individual methods and group teaching methods. In upcoming Next Step to Success blog we will discuss the utilization of social media educational methods.
Rodewald, A.D. (2001). Delivery systems- Is the “latest” technology the greatest? Journal of Extension. 39 (4) Retrieved from http://www.joe.org/joe/2001august/tt2.html.
Seevers, B., & Graham, D. (2012). Education through Cooperative Extension. (3rd ed.). Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Bookstore.
Wagent, L.P., Lemley, A.T., Granthan, D.G., Harrison, E.G., Hilliman, K., Mathers, K. & Younge, L.H. (2005) Evaluating the effectiveness of public television as a method for watershed education. Journal of Extension. 43 (2) Retrieved from http://www.joe.org./joe/2005april/a5.shtml