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  • Author or Editor: Emily A. Barton x
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In the 2015 Delaware (DE) Master Gardener training, instructors synchronously delivered content to two trainee cohorts (Cohorts A and B) who met at three locations (Sites 1, 2, and 3) via video web conferencing (VWC). This reduced instructor delivery and travel time but warranted close examination of trainee learning outcomes and experiences. To evaluate the pilot implementation of remote delivery, trainees [number of trainees (N) = 30] answered two open-ended application questions after 11 instructional sessions. One cohort received instruction face-to-face, while the other cohort synchronously received instruction via remote delivery [number of participants in cohort 1 (n1) = 17; number of participants in cohort 2 (n2) = 13]; each cohort was remote for about half of the sessions. The overall average face-to-face score assessing session content mastery was higher than the overall average remote score by 0.1, a 5% difference given the possible scores range of 0 to 2.0. When we grouped sessions by remote delivery site, delivery mode only significantly predicted average session scores for those sessions delivered remotely to Site 2 and not those delivered remotely to either Site 1 or Site 3. When we considered each session individually, delivery mode significantly predicted session scores for 2 of the 11 sessions, both broadcast remotely to trainees at Site 2, where the bandwidth was 10% of those at Sites 1 and 3. We suggest the VWC system performed particularly poorly for these sessions due to limited bandwidth. Posttraining survey results suggest the VWC system did not function well enough to approximate face-to-face instruction. The overall educational rating of the training was significantly higher than the media naturalness rating suggesting poor technical functionality did not substantially undermine trainees’ perception of the education they received. This study indicates remote delivery is a viable strategy for improving the efficiency of training programs if it is consistently implemented with the appropriate technical infrastructure.

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We held a technology session at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Horticultural Science in Atlanta, GA, to provide guidance for technology choices in extension education and an opportunity to learn more about engaging new audiences, including the millennial generation (people born between 1982 and 2000). The use of technology is now an integral part of extension-client interaction. Presenters in the session gave examples of when technologies such as blogs, social media accounts, or web conferencing tools allowed extension personnel to increase engagement with online consumers and ultimately help fulfill extension’s mission of extending knowledge and changing lives. Effective engagement requires both educators and learners to be satisfied with the exchange. It is critical to monitor the quality of these digitally facilitated exchanges as compared with traditional face-to-face interactions. Additionally, it is possible to quantify digital engagement with readily available metrics, such as “retweets” (a reposted or forwarded message) or “likes” (indication an item is appreciated). These allow innovative and substantive reporting to further justify continued use of digital technologies for enhancing client-extension relations.

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