Ohio County Extension Educator Evaluation of Ohioline.osu.edu

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The Ohio State University

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More than ten years after the launch of Ohioline, what was formerly a premiere source for Extension education had come into desperate need of evaluation to determine its effectiveness as an educational component of the Cooperative Extension Service. The use of the Internet and distance learning programs has become standard tools for Extension. No longer does a person have to contact their educator, travel to their office and sort through stacks of paper bulletins and fact sheets. Instead, they can be provided with a constant stream of information right form their personal computer. However, with varying technological abilities, a website must be maintained in an easy to use format. It must also contain information that is relevant to individuals focusing on differing subject areas. Part of ensuring this is the responsibility of the upper management of the website. Administrators must be conscious of new trends and new information becoming available daily. They must also look to the users – in this case educators and Extension clients – for feedback on their performance. Feedback is critical for evaluating communication. In this instance, The Ohio State University is the source of the communication message being transmitted via the Internet and Ohioline. The destination is the Extension educators and clients. However, because this is an educational setting, the educators and clients then become the source of information when providing feedback. Yet because there was no formal system of analyzing feedback, and because without analyzing feedback, a new technology cannot be accurately managed, this study sought to provide a means of review for Ohioline. Of the educators surveyed, 93.33% (N = 70) agreed to some extent that the content of Ohioline is significant to Extension clients. There was also strong support of the website as an alternative to printed fact sheets and bulletins: 80.26% (N = 61) agreed to some extent that Ohioline has the same educational value as print material containing the same information. Educators indicated that material is out of date, as indicated through open-ended responses. Also, Many Family and Consumer Science educators indicated there was a lack of information in their field. This could be relative to the amount of research being done in that area; however, they also indicated a lack of fact sheets and bulletins for them to access. Respondents indicated that the organization of the website was sub-par and could be modified for easier location of information: 62.16% (N = 46) agreed that information is easy to locate, but only 3 respondents (f = 4.05%) strongly agreed. Twenty-eight respondents (f = 37.84%) disagreed to some extent with 10.81% (N = 8) strongly disagreeing. One hundred percent (N = 74) of respondents indicated the Internet should be a major tool for Extension education. Fifty and sixty-eight hundredths percent (N = 37) of respondents slightly agreed that Ohioline addressed the needs of rural clients and an additional 28.77% (N = 21) moderately agreed with the statement. Similarly, 54.29% (N = 38) of respondents slightly agreed that Ohioline addressed the needs of urban clients and 22.86% (N = 16) moderately agreed with the statement. Finally, 51.43% (N = 36) of respondents slightly agreed that Ohioline addressed the needs of suburban clients and 28.57% (N = 20) moderately agreed with the statement. Many open-ended responses indicated that educators looked to other universities’ websites for information regarding specific subjects. Subjects mentioned were corn and soy production and family and consumer sciences. Because Ohioline has the potential to be a first-class resource for disseminating Extension information, administrators must make it their top priority to increase the interactivity of the site; to premier new and breakthrough information consistently; and to continue to keep information up-to-date and easy to understand for everyone. By working with educators, web designers, and the public, administrators could redevelop the site for easier use and more modern appearance. In addition, by joining forces with other Land-Grant universities for online Extension practices, The Ohio State Cooperative Extension Service could benefit from the increased resources and abilities of agricultural professionals nationwide. Advisor: M. Susie Whittington



communication, Ohioline, Extension, internet, fact sheet