Webinars are a technology that has advanced greatly among researchers and extension workers in the past decade (Verma and Singh, 2010; Zoumenou et al., 2015). Various groups have championed its use as a way to conveniently disseminate research outcomes to stakeholders (Allred and Smallidge, 2010; Formiga et al., 2014; Hoke et al., 2018; Pulec et al., 2016; Rich et al., 2011; VanDerZanden, 2013; Zavell et al., 2017). Although the technology has been available for several years, challenges to successful implementation still exist. Recent upgrades in technology have spurred an increase in online webinar programs. Early adopters of webinar delivery have served as the vanguard for other extension efforts to use webinars as a viable education option (Allred and Smallidge, 2010; Formiga et al., 2014).
The advantages and challenges of hosting webinars has been covered extensively by others (Rich et al., 2011; Verma and Singh, 2010; Zoumenou et al., 2015). But one of the main benefits of using webinar technology is the reduction or elimination of costly travel expenses, especially when the webinars are designed to reach an audience throughout a large geographic region. Grapes are grown in every state, with most states having dozens, if not hundreds, of wineries as well (Wine America, 2017). The rate of growth in this industry is staggering and the need for educating new growers and wine makers is a high priority for those in viticulture extension and research (Martinson et al., 2016; Stafne et al., 2009).
Relatively recent advances in cultivar development have allowed high-quality interspecific hybrid wine grapes to be grown in regions where it was too cold and the season too short for the more common european grape [Vitis vinifera (Martinson et al., 2016)]. Many of the vineyard managers and winery owners in the northern states are new to viticulture and enology and, thus, are in great need of educational offerings to start them on a profitable path. A solution for this issue was a regional grant project called the Northern Grapes Project.
The Northern Grapes Project was a Coordinated Agricultural Project funded in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI), addressing three SCRI focus areas of production (viticulture), processing (enology), and consumers and markets (winery business management and marketing). It focused on new, cold-hardy cultivars that initiated the development of a grape and wine industry in the upper-Midwest and Northeast United States, comprising more than 300 wineries, 3300 acres of grapes, and 1300 growers (Fig. 1). The goal of the Northern Grapes Project was to enhance and support the development of these wineries and vineyards. As part of this goal, webinars were presented once monthly from November through April and recordings were archived on the project website (Northern Grapes Project, 2016). Thirty webinars were delivered to a live audience of 3083, with nearly 2400 views of recorded webinars, from 2012 to 2016. Webinar registrants came from 47 states and Canada.
To assess the impact of the webinar series, participants were surveyed to gauge willingness to pay, generated income, savings, and other variables related to the information delivered by the webinar presenters. The results were used to help demonstrate project impact to grant sponsors and stakeholders.
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