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.
As Extension continues to function during these chaotic times due to the Corona virus pandemic by shifting from face to face programming to remote program delivery or distance education. In this installment of Next Step to Success we will continue to discuss Utilizing Social Media and Online Methods to deliver programs.
Social media and online learning have presented Extension with the opportunity to utilize various internet-based platforms to interact with clients. Social media is having a dynamic impact on the way knowledge, information, and programs are being created and shared in Extension (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
There is a large number of social media and online learning sites available, but for the purpose of this installment of the Next Step to Success blog we are going to focus on Blogs, Twitter, YouTube and Ranch TV, Podcasts and online courses offered by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
A blog is a website that displays regular updates or educational content in chronological order (Seevers & Graham, 2012). It provides Extension educators the opportunity to share expertise and educational material to clientele. A blog can contain text, photographs, or embedded videos. They can be utilized to communicate emerging issue rapidly and simultaneously to a large number of clientele. Two examples of blogs that were effectively utilized to address emerging issues are the Insects in the City and Focus on Entomology blogs.
Twitter is a popular social networking tool that enables Extension educators to send and receive short messages called tweets on their computer or mobile device (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Tweets are text-based messages of up to 140 characters on the author’s profile page and delivered to followers (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Twitter uses hashtags to categorize topics, which makes it easy for the audience to search for a specific topic of interest. It is important to use appropriate hashtags to accurately promote your content and get your information to the public.
YouTube is designed to foster discussions or interaction by allowing users to upload and comment on videos (Seevers & Graham, 2012). Extension clientele has the ability to create a YouTube account and subscribes to various Texas A&M AgriLIfe YouTube channels. The availability of inexpensive video and publishing tools allows video to be edited and distributed by email, Facebook, blogs, or websites.
Extension educators can utilize YouTube to create awareness of an issue, demonstrate a concept, or provide educational information on a specific subject matter. Clientele looking for specific information can use the search function of YouTube to find relevant and useful Extension educational information. An Example of two very effective YouTube videos is the Path to the Plate- Feeding the world and Path to the Plate- Beef Nutrition as follows:
Megan Eikner explains the challenges that farmers and ranchers have feeding an increasing population worldwide and maintaining a safe product. Outstanding job Megan
Posted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension: North Region ANR on Monday, October 15, 2018
Another instructional video platform utilized by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension is Ranch TV. These educational videos include videos related to Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) in both English and Spanish, Beef and Cattle Literacy, Cattle Nutrition, Creating Value through Low-Stress Handling, and topics related to Equine Science, just to name a few. The following is an example of an instructional video related to Food Safety:
Podcasts are brief audio or video messages made available on the internet (Seevers & Graham, 2012). The podcast can be listened to at any time which is an advantage to radio broadcasts that require audiences to listen at a certain time (Seevers & Graham, 2012). An excellent example of a podcast with only audio is the Ag Law in the Field podcast. Some podcasts also contain video which allows the Extension educator to conduct instructional demonstrations (Seevers & Graham, 2012).
Widespread utilization of the internet has created opportunities for Extension educators to reach a new audience in an innovative and user-friendly approach. Segar (2011) reported that these technologies are changing the relationship with current and future clientele and allows for a blend of delivery methods at the county level. Online courses make interactive instruction possible when implementing a blended approach to delivering a program.
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension specialists have developed a huge number of online courses in the areas of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Family and Community Health, Texas 4-H and Youth Development, Community Economic Development and Volunteer programs. Extension educators should review the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Online Course Catalog to determine the course that would provide added value to their ongoing educational efforts (figure 1).
Figure 1. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Online Course Catalog.
Prior to utilizing any social media platform, all Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service educators should review and adhere to AgriLife Extension Social Media Guidelines. These guidelines are important to follow to ensure educators have a professional and credible presence when using online platforms.
Seevers, B., & Graham, D. (2012). Education through Cooperative Extension. (3rd ed.). Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Bookstore.
Seger, J. (2011). The new digital [St]age: Barriers to the adoption and adaptation of new technologies to deliver Extension programming and how to address them. Journal of Extension [Online], 49(1) Article 1FEA1. Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2011february/a1.php