September 2018 // Volume 56 // Number 5
Exploring Innovation in Extension
In a welcome statement, we, the Journal of Extension Special Issue on Innovation 2018 guest editors, invite readers to explore this issue's 22 articles addressing innovation in Extension. We also extend thanks to eXtension Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture for their support in making the issue possible.
Hey, Siri, What Is the Future of Extension?
Extension faces unprecedented competition in the information marketplace. Although this is not a new concern, today Extension's competitors are no longer an abstract potential. They reside in our homes across the country. Is the past truly prologue? Is Extension destined to continue to experience erosion of audiences and political support? Or are there opportunities for Extension professionals to step up and stem the flow? The answer to the last question is yes, but doing so will take an understanding of the new competitors in the information marketplace and investments in innovation that do more than just sustain Extension's current market position.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Hey, Siri, What Is the Future of Extension?”
Informing Innovations Through Deeper Insight on Strategic Priorities and Expansive Ideas
Recent national Extension initiatives and reports provide insight into innovation trends and issues. In response to questions from participants in eXtension Impact Collaborative events, we adapted two business frameworks to provide deeper insight about innovation. The adapted frameworks are helpful for identifying strategic areas of focus for innovation and prompting expanded thinking about potential types of innovation.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Informing Innovations Through Deeper Insight on Strategic Priorities and Expansive Ideas”
Let's Not Get Disrupted
Successful 21st-century Extension organizations will require innovative business models and organizational structures to meet customer needs. Although new technologies and tools that support Extension education are important, they do not serve as a vision or strategy. This commentary argues why Extension must pay close attention to its customers' needs to remain valuable and relevant in the future and describes the changes Penn State Extension has made in an attempt to position itself as a 21st-century organization.
Participate in the JOE Discussion Forum on “Let's Not Get Disrupted”
Ideas at Work
Zoom Around the World: Using Videoconferencing Technology for International Trainings
This article describes an innovative model of educational programming used by our team of U.S. Extension educators for an international development project in Burundi, Africa. Our team designed a model to provide ongoing professional development trainings at a distance using Zoom, a videoconferencing platform. Over a 2-year period, we conducted 18 Zoom trainings with Burundian educators. On the basis of participant evaluation data and the literature, we present key principles for using distance technology in international development projects. Given the current economy and budget cuts in Extension, videoconferencing provides an opportunity for Extension to remain engaged internationally.
Connecting Generations Through Informal Geospatial and Conservation Education
University of Connecticut Extension educators are engaged in a new program that fosters intergenerational informal science, technology, engineering, and math learning through combining geospatial technology and conservation science. Conservation Training Partnerships (CTP) is a program that brings together adult conservation leaders and high-school-aged youths for a 2-day hands-on training that leads to community-based conservation projects. The program creates synergistic project teams that combine the adult partners' community and conservation knowledge with the youth partners' technological facility. This innovative intergenerational approach holds promise for Extension professionals in improving technology-based trainings and projects.
Hot Shots and Project-Based Extension: Setting a National Model by Reinventing Extension in Urban Areas
Colorado State University's Denver County Extension office is transforming the urban Extension landscape through a deliberate shift from traditional Extension programming toward a more project-based approach. In collaboration with the Western Center for Metropolitan Extension and Research, Denver County Extension developed the hot shot model to conduct applied research and special projects via project-based Extension in Denver, innovating how Extension operates and is viewed in urban communities. This approach couples staffing flexibility with expanded subject matter expertise, allowing local Extension to respond nimbly to stakeholder priorities while brokering the research and educational expertise of the university with the community.
Producing Dubbed-Language Videos to Reach Audiences Across Cultures
Extension educators are increasingly using social media for outreach and information delivery. But are the Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channels of the world reaching across cultures to non-English speakers, recently resettled refugees or immigrants, migrant workers, or other underserved Extension audiences? After producing and screening over a dozen educational videos dubbed into various languages, we have found videos to be empowering educational tools for engaging nontraditional audiences, especially when screened offline in public workshops. This article outlines techniques for using videos to specifically target historically underserved audiences and non-English speakers by integrating culturally important themes and language voice-overs.
Pathways to Prosperity Conference Blends Technology and Facilitation to Engage Leaders Statewide
Pathways to Prosperity (P2P) is a statewide economic development leadership conference that is hosted by Washington State University Extension (WSUE) and involves use of a unique hybrid delivery model to reach rural communities and revive economies. For P2P, WSUE uses technology to connect multiple sites simultaneously to provide a webinar featuring a national expert. Well-designed and adaptable activities facilitated by a local team address issues and opportunities introduced by the speaker. Regional leaders and stakeholders participate at local sites, allowing them to leverage the knowledge gained by applying it to their community goals and aspirations.
Tools of the Trade
Flipping the Classroom to Train Citizen Scientists in Invasive Species Detection and Response
Extension educators are increasingly using flipped classrooms, wherein online content delivery precedes in-person learning. We have applied this approach to two Extension programs in which citizen scientists are trained in early detection of invasive species. Our goal in using the tool of flipped classrooms is to accommodate large amounts of content while focusing classroom time on skills development. In 2017, we assessed efficacy of the flipped classroom through knowledge tests and surveys completed by 174 participants and 106 participants, respectively. Results demonstrated large knowledge gains and high participant satisfaction. We encourage Extension professionals to consider whether use of the flipped classroom format could advance achievement of their programs' learning objectives.
Using 360-Degree Video for Immersive Learner Engagement
A 360-degree video is a powerful tool that can bring learners into environments that would otherwise be inaccessible. These videos are simultaneously recorded in all directions, allowing the viewer to control viewing direction. Viewers can experience these videos on a computer, smartphone, or tablet or with a virtual reality headset. Camera and software equipment needed to produce 360-degree videos is affordable, allowing Extension educators to produce their own videos. This article addresses the practical aspects of producing 360-degree-video content that can be shared online or in a classroom setting.
Follow a Researcher: Using Innovative Technology to Connect Youths and Scientists
Today's technology connects audiences to research-based knowledge and experts anywhere and at any time. Using social media allows Extension professionals to provide on-demand, asynchronous access to information. Synchronous, or real-time, interaction affords a more active and personal experience. The University of Maine has developed a program that facilitates live conversations between youths and graduate students conducting scientific research in remote locations around the world. This article describes a model for effectively using social media and satellite communication devices to engage kindergarten-through-grade-12 audiences with Extension in innovative ways.
The National Extension Web-mapping Tool: From Data Exploration and Discovery to Decision Making
The University of New Hampshire (UNH), Virginia Tech (VT), and Texas A&M University collaborated to envision and plan (all) and then create (UNH and VT) the National Extension Web-mapping Tool (NEWT) to increase the use of spatial data in planning and programming decision making throughout Extension. With NEWT, Extension professionals can access and use national Extension-relevant spatial data sets available at varied scales (county, Extension district, state) and in varied formats (maps, tables), without needing mapping experience or associated technical skills. NEWT encourages users to look past state borders and traditional administrative boundaries to discover opportunities for collaboration.
Jobs to Be Done: An Innovative Needs Assessment Method for Supporting Extension Product and Program Design
Needs assessment in Extension is typically a quantitative process whereby the highest number of votes is deemed to indicate the greatest need. However, this process does not help specialists and county agents know the best response to carry out. A different process is needed to ensure that we in Extension are executing the right responses. In implementing the "jobs to be done" framework, an Extension professional conducts interviews with a small number of audience members to determine the content, kinds of media, and delivery model that will "do the job" for the audience. This article details three cases in which application of this tool supported information product development.
Augmented Reality: Exploring Its Potential for Extension
Augmented reality (AR) is quickly becoming commonplace in our daily lives and in many information-sharing fields. This article addresses how Extension is exploring its application and utility for our consumers. In the article, I provide a clear definition of AR and an explanation of how it differs from virtual reality, followed by examples of AR applications within and external to Extension. I describe the origin of, development process for, and lessons learned from an eXtension Foundation–funded AR project in the hope of offering a roadmap to others. Additionally, I present findings from a statewide survey of Extension professionals about AR's strengths, weaknesses, and potential.
Disruptive Innovation: How Washington State University Is Reaching Urban Audiences
Washington State University (WSU) is redefining how Extension works in urban areas. Its Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension (Metro Center) engages nontraditional Extension audiences using an innovative business model that focuses on short-term projects instead of long-term programs. Outcome-driven, client-centered, and solution-oriented, the Metro Center works to develop practical, place-based solutions by being a conduit between metropolitan decision makers and WSU faculty expertise across the state. In this article, we present a case study centered on the conditions and opportunities leading to the Metro Center's formation, the center's entrepreneurial business model, and center projects that allow Extension to reach new audiences.
A New Regional Model for Increasing Extension's Capacity to Reach Metropolitan Audiences
Six western Extension organizations founded the Western Center for Metropolitan Extension and Research (WCMER) to increase the internal capacity of Extension to address metropolitan issues and elevate the value of Extension to external metropolitan audiences. In this article, we present a case study of WCMER. We describe the inception of the center and results of an analysis of its functionality. Those results include findings related to the advisory board’s ability to build social capital and leverage power networks, WCMER’s originating within a culture of innovation and being modeled after other innovative centers, and the concurrent formation of WCMER and the National Urban Extension Leaders network, which propelled WCMER to a national level.
Taking the Leap: Exploring a Theory of Program Innovation
Innovation in Extension is often referred to as something tangible, such as a new resource or technique or new concepts. However, these things result from a program innovation process. In this article, we elaborate a grounded theory of how this process unfolds in the context of Extension. Through analysis of data from a national survey of practitioners from innovative programs, a panel presentation, and interviews with faculty at the University of Minnesota, we describe seven factors that influence what prompts innovation and how the process tends to unfold. We synthesize a capitals-based conceptual model and discuss implications for diagnosing and strengthening program innovation.
Adaptive Learning: An Innovative Method for Online Teaching and Learning
The term adaptive learning refers to a nonlinear approach to online instruction that adjusts to a student's needs as the student progresses through course content, resulting in a customized experience for the learner based on prior knowledge. This concept is emerging in the field of online learning. Through a project funded by the eXtension Foundation, we reviewed and conducted pilot testing on adaptive learning tools for Extension programming. We found that the adaptive learning format aided learners in mastering content. A significant contribution to the Extension community resulting from our project is improved understanding of an innovative way of teaching online.
Innovate Extension Events: Creating Space for Innovation in Extension
Extension professionals are being challenged to innovate their work, yet day-to-day responsibilities do not always allow time or space for creativity and innovation. In early 2016, Ohio State University Extension held its inaugural Innovate Extension event, a hackathon-style gathering focused on creative collaboration during which teams competed for grant funds by developing an idea, plan, and pitch over the course of a day. Turnout exceeded expectations, and participants gave high marks to the experience. Due to the event's success, additional Innovate Extension events have been hosted at North Dakota State University, Utah State University, and Oregon State University. This article provides highlights and outcomes.
Untapped: Accessing Extension to Strengthen Connections Between Citizen Science and Community Decision Making
Citizen science is on the rise, and Extension is poised to support this movement by offering technical assistance to citizen science programs, communities, federal partners, and researchers. The expansion of citizen science provides an opportunity for fostering innovative access to Extension resources and increasing engagement with new audiences. To encourage capitalization on this opportunity, we outline Extension's traditional strengths and connect them to the needs of citizen science programs, offer examples of Extension-based citizen science programs that are working with communities to make natural resource management decisions, and make suggestions for ways in which Extension's technical assistance can be shared with the citizen science community to build new partnerships.
Research in Brief
An Online Parenting Program Grows Digital Parenting Skills and Parent–School Connection
The eParenting: High-Tech Kids program addresses the positive role technology can play in parenting 9- to 14-year-olds. Delivered via middle schools' parent email lists, the program comprises 56 "posts" (articles) related to positive uses of digital media/technology in parenting preteens and teens. In 2016 alone, nearly 35,000 Wisconsin families, representing 24 counties and 77 schools, were reached. Self-report parent feedback, collected over 3 years, indicated increased understanding of how to use digital media as a parenting tool, more positive views on using digital media in parenting, and increased conversations with children about digital media. Schools also valued the resulting improved connection with parents.
Grandfamilies: Characteristics and Needs of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Households in which grandparents are raising grandchildren, known as grandfamilies, represent a growing and underserved population. The Healthy Grandfamilies Project, a program for grandparents raising grandchildren, comprises 3 months of educational discussion group sessions delivered by West Virginia State University Extension staff followed by 3 months of support services delivered by a licensed social worker. We collected data for a preliminary study of the program through an intake form, pre- and posteducation measures, and a participant satisfaction survey. Preliminary results suggest a profile of grandfamilies and indicate that a model of education combined with social support holds potential for addressing unmet needs of this population.