Integrating the Web into Existing Extension and Educational Technology

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  • 1 Dept. of Horticultural Sciences, Texas A&M Univ., College Station, TX 77843-2133

Recent studies by academic, extension, and private foundation “think tanks” have reaffirmed the land-grant philosophy as an important component of American society in the 21st century. According to Bill Campbell's dictum, successful land-grant systems will have more closely integrated educational, research, and extension programs characterized as more ACCESSIBLE, AFFORDABLE, and ACCOUNTABLE than current models. The World Wide Web affords the land-grant professional an information delivery/teaching system that conforms to Campbell's three As. Web technology is evolving rapidly, necessitating continuous and rapid adaptation by information providers. The availability of low-cost, user-friendly Web access through home TVs promises to upset the existing paradigms of extension information delivery through county offices and undergraduate instruction exclusively in the campus classroom. Some land-grant professionals have adopted Web technology as a tool to deliver educational programs and coursework; however, the vast majority have not. Most faculty continue to distribute information in a printed form, citing as justification the very steep learning curve and time involved in formatting materials for electronic delivery. We have emphasized the need for life-long learning to our clientele and students; we must heed our own advice. The transition from a paper-based, county-centered extension delivery system and campus classroom-oriented undergraduate educational system is being facilitated by satellite and compressed video conferencing, and Web server networks. Faculty must develop the ability to integrate appropriate technology into their own programs, since it is clear that the “efficient” land-grant systems of the future will not provide them with the support personnel to do it for them.

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