Monday, June 25, 2018

Access to research through open data

Millet pollination ICRISAT research campus Hyderabad, India
Over the last year, I led a study on open access and open data at PUSH universities.

Access to research findings and the data collected in the process of research can lead to solutions of multifaceted complex problems, such as hunger and malnutrition. This is one reason why funding agencies and research foundations are requiring that research findings and research data be free, accessible, interoperable, and re-useable.

When quality data is shared openly (called open data),  research and innovation can be accelerated. Also, open data yields transparency, increased citations, increased research collaboration, and increased credibility of researchers and universities.

We found that no PUSH universities have explicit open data policies. Only 15 have online open access policies and 15 have open access portals. Only a few have dedicated open data repositories. While those we interviewed recognized the increased expectations for open data and many agree to the importance of open data, very few universities have the infrastructure, support, and policies in place for an open data movement.

While there are many reasons to jump into the open access and open data movement, it is also important to recognize reasons why some researchers and universities are concerned about open data and why some data should not be shared. Based on interviews, we provide several recommendations for universities to seriously consider open data. These findings and recommendations are similar to what GODAN  and the AAU/APLU  have found.o
This past week, I attended the Driving Innovation through Data in Agriculture (DIDAgworkshop. In this meeting, it became even more clear that universities, researchers, government agencies, and research foundations understand the need to move forward with open data to tackle its challenges.

Now is the time for universities, federal agencies, foundation funders, researchers, research professional associations, and research publications to begin to develop new open data policies, agree on open data goals, expectations, infrastructure, and support.

How do we bring the right groups and people to agree and create a movement forward.  Who needs to have a say? How can decisions be made that will answer the question who pays for the open data infrastructure, processes, and maintenance?

If you have any questions, feel free to call or email me.


Thanks to Jaime Adams, Medha Devare, Brytni Emison, Harriet Giles, June Henton, Jessica Hopkinson, Jayne Kucera, Ruthie Musker, Kara Newby, Martin Parr, Juliet Tumeo, Tashina Walp, and Ruthie Wofford for working on this project with me!

And thank you to the people at 9 PUSH universities who agreed to be interviewed!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

It's been awhile


Over the last few years, I have shared less depth about my work and life in social media. Hopefully, I will begin to writing again so this post is a bit of an update. Currently, I am working with eXtension and Hungers Solutions Institute and I am volunteering with National Leadership Center for Excellence.


I have had an evolving eXtension appointment for the past 8 years. For those not familiar with eXtension, you can think of eXtension as a national presence that works to improve Cooperative Extension work through innovating and improving professional skills. You can certainly learn more about how eXtension is pushing the local systems and their knowledge workers by checking out their web presence.

My current work is to advise and consult on a dynamic field book that will include content and connections to people via using ontologies and eventually machine learning. My role includes helping build the knowledge network in this conceptual demo.

Hunger Solutions Institute

I started working with HSI as a project manager in May assessing open data at select PUSH universities. The idea is that if research is shared more openly then the speed of discovery and innovation will increase. Our study looks at how universities are adhering to funders' requirements to share research data and the policies of these univesities. Our report will be presented in mid March at the Presidents United to Solve Hunger Forum and Universities Fighting World Hunger Summit

I have learned so much more from HSI and its leaders.

  • Hunger is a complex, yet solvable problem.
  • Universites can and should be main players in discovering solutions. 
  • Hunger affects 20% of the children in the U.S
  • Studies are also showing 20% college students are food or nutrition insecure.  
  • Student led initiatives like campus kitchens are helping and are being led by students. 
  • Much more can be done to deal with the root causes of hunger, locally and globally through research and knowledge.

National Leadership Center for Excellence 

I have also been volunteering with the planning of a National Leadership Center for Excellence which purpose is to set a "place and setting" to have a "more perfect union for domestic tranquility" through listening, sharing, learning, presenting and writing. I will share more about this later.

What is ahead?

By the end of the summer of 2018, I will retire from Auburn University. I love what I am doing and the people and organizations which I have worked with. I have learned so much from colleagues nationally and internationally, particularly Canada, India Australia, and United Kingdom. After a few months of not working, I hope to find interesting work, like teaching online classes, interesting  consultant work, and writing, perhaps continuing some of these projects. On my own time, I want to explore these topics. 
  • How behaviour and actions change because of technology.  I wrote years ago how social media and Web 2.0 (remember that term?)  could help us learn from diversity of resources. Some of that has happened but it seems that social media has helped people of like minds join that has created echo chambers creating greater polarization of ideas, particularly around political opinions. Perhaps in my first few months of retirement I can investigate this notion with more scientific evidence--not depending on my own observations. 
  • Servant leadership and civility. I would love to write stories and how serving others can improve business and productivity.
  • Open Science. In my work with HSI and open data, I would like to explore how universities are addressing open data and are there opportunities to create courses around the history of open science and open knowledge starting with Plato, how open knowledge changed to protectionism,  ending with open and flexible licensing and sharing science so that it is discoverable and re-usable. 
  • Personal journaling. I have found times in my life that writing is therapeutic. I simply need to start this again.
It feels good to back in this space. More later.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Auburn Citizens and Students

Friday night, almost a week ago, I was in the den watching football (just one game) and my husband was in the adjacent sunroom closer to the front (switching between football games). Heh it works--don't judge.

I heard a noise toward the street and John says "That's a wreck!" Over the last 3 decades, there have been several wrecks. We live on a main street that flows through our college town. Past the south drive way there is a connecting street that has had many wrecks; more when there was no light, fewer with a caution light, and fewer with a stop light.

Opening the front door, I could see lights shining toward the north driveway at an odd angle. This is a bit unusual; most wrecks happen on the south of the South driveway. Seeing no emergency vehicles on site, I decided walk down. The young lady sporting a a UAB sweatshirt was visibly shaken but seemingly physically okay. Her story to her mom on the phone was consistent to anyone who asked.  "I know this sounds crazy. I heard really loud pop and saw a flash of light, then I was hit and I spun around into this yard."  What she did not realized is that in the opposite direction, a SUV hit another car which was turning left from the other lane which then hit her car that sent her car spinning into our yard. It is unclear but Mary, the young lady avoided at least on car from the opposite direction and possibly another.

One person was driven away in an ambulance. Mary was very concerned about the other person though it seems there was nothing she could have done differently. The emergency folks assured her the person was conscious would probably be fine. We kept telling Mary that we understand it was upsetting. Occasionally we mentioned how lucky she was. Her car could have been hit closer to front driver's side or her car could have spun into light pole--just a few feet from where her car stop. We thought of these things more times than we mentioned them.

Mary was coming into town to visit her boyfriend who not only showed up but calmed Mary's parents on the phone. He was steady, reassuring, and pragmatic. He was considering the next steps. Making sure to get all paper work, cleaning the car of necessary items, and taking pictures of the car. He asked pertinent questions: "Where will her car be towed?" "How do we get information for insurance?" Most importantly, he was very comforting to his girlfriend holding her and telling her everything would be fine.

His roommates were on the scene too. They were trying be helpful. I am sure both Mary and Matt. felt they were supported by their friends. These college students are bright, respectful, and kind. They seem to care about the right things. I was impressed with all of them. I wish them all well.

Walking up to my front door one night this week, I found a wonderful note and plant sitting in front of the door. I am sharing the note because I think he, his friends and his girlfriend are special people and have found a bonded friendship to last a long time, possibly because they are loyal to each other and caring to others--an hour of distress shows true selves. Also, I believe there is much goodness in the young adults today that gets overlooked. Shining examples of goodness are this young man, his girlfriend and his friends--all engaging and caring young people who make me think the future is bright.

Matt is graduating in May in Electrical Engineering. Any company should be very lucky to hire such a fine young man.

Matt's note:
I am the boyfriend of the young lady and involved in the car accident last Friday. I am truly grateful for the kindness you showed in helping her calm down and even offering to give her a jacket. I am blessed to report she is doing fine and had little to no pain even the next day. We will forever remember your kindness on that night. You and other citizens of the city of Auburn are a large reason in my experience at Auburn University has been so positive. May you and your family have a wonderful holiday season. 
Matt G. 
I really appreciate the time he spent recognizing us. I am sure our neighbors across the street who stopped traffic when emergency folks were not there were given similar notes.

In this expanding city, we are still a community--the university and city are often connected in unforeseen ways--this is one reason the city of Auburn continues to be a great place to live. This young man recognized a value that can't be counted and is often very hard to describe.
"....citizens of the city of Auburn are a large reason in my experience at Auburn University has been so positive."
I hope Matt and Mary the best in their futures--they certainly have the emotional foundation to do so.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dad is cool with that

Sometimes telling a personal story is important. If you are not interested in a purely non professional story, hit the back button.

Yesterday, I left the office somewhat unexpectedly (I did not know on Friday but I did know on Sunday) that I needed to take most on Monday off to take my dad to the doctor. These rare occasions may seem disruptive to the work week, but these times are gems.

Both of my parents are competitive--maybe not publicly. They instilled success, but not at the expense of others. I am so appreciative of the balance that parents demonstrated. For those who know me--most of my personality and my physical body come from my dad or his side of the family. My face and expressions (the chin and the no poker face) come from my mom, however, it is abundantly clear I did not get her slender and tall build.

My dad will talk to anyone. My mom is much more reserved. Again, I identify with my dad--I love hearing people's stories.

Yesterday, in the many hours of driving and waiting, my dad told me several stories. Some I knew and some I did not know. He told me one story that made me laugh and then he confessed he had never told anyone before--I will hold this story until he can't tell it anymore. It is more gossip than a story, but funny to me, and please don't press me to tell.

One story he told me was one that I had heard many times and, in particular, in my much, much younger days. This post is to record that story.

My parents had a friend from Montgomery who ordered a block of Auburn University football and basketball tickets. The basketball tickets were two rows behind the visitors' bench. As a teenager and a college student, I did not realized how coveted these seats were (call me oblivious back then).

I can't remember the year---but I suspect sometime between 1979 - 1985, my parents were attending an Auburn basketball game against LSU. Sonny Smith was Auburn's coach (those Auburn fans should narrow down that this could have been in the Barkley/Person days or possibly before).

My mom got into the game and if you know my dad--he was probably into the game too. But this was one of those days that my mom was adamant. She was giving the referees and the LSU coach her thoughts (okay; she was giving them hell but my mom does not curse). At some point. she probably yelled "Sit down Coach!"

In a quite moment after a "huddle" with his players, LSU Coach Dale Brown looked at my dad and then my mom and said "I am glad I am not going home with you."

There are moments--usually a build up of discontent--that you really did not want to mess with my mom, and my dad was totally cool with that.

I was telling this story to a colleague earlier today and he sent me this Instagram tonight and thought I might as well tell the story to others.

A photo posted by Dick Vitale (@dickiev_espn) on

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Oh my what has happened on the farm

What does a progressive farm look like? Consider the aspects of farms described by this New York Times article.
UD Irrigation Field Tour
  • Cloud computing
  • Data is everything (big data, data analysis, and shared and private data)
  • Potential robotics (weed detection)
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles (drones)
  • Satellite technologies: 
    • GPS
    • GIS
    • yield monitors (real time data on yield and moisture)
    • variable rate applicators (fertilizers, seed, and irrigation)
    • precision operations (inch accurate rows)
    • autosteer tractors (driveless)
    • electrical soil mapping
    • electrical charged soiled testing
  • Social media
  • Partnerships
What does this mean for agriculture in the United States? Possibly bigger farms and fewer diverse farms, which does not necessarily lead in a negative direction. It also means more information on environmental treatments and eventually leading to tracking food to its source.

Tom Farms recognizes, like most progressive businesses, that technology is used to garner and process lots of information for management decisions. Growth on these farms is dependent on managing and deciphering precise and massive amount of information. In part, Tom Farms' growth is enhanced by those farms that continue to look at using more inputs, fertilizers and horse power and are not utilizing the power of information.
Farmers still think tech means physical augmentation — more horsepower, more fertilizer,” Mr. Tom said. “They don’t see that technology now is about multiplying information.” With corn prices at almost half the level they have been in the past few years, “my growth is going to come from farmers who don’t embrace technology."
Enabling technology can also cause conflicts and adjustments in the way farmers work. Farmers tend to be very independent but with big data -- their own and their neighbors' data -- more information can yield benefits to all. On the flip side, there continues to be a need for proprietary control. Sharing data puts individual farmers at risk but also could yield benefits to them individually and collectively, similarly, much like other industries.
“We and the other farmers could pool all our harvest data in real time,” he said. “You think the big companies would like that? You bet they would. Farmers don’t trust that; they’re independent. Your neighbor is also your competitor.
The most competitive farms will utilize masses of precise information gathered via technology and are able to sift through and analyze these layers of data to make decisions. These farms will also use partnerships for strategic and collective benefit.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Leadership in the knowledge economy

Something is missing from our conversations about the 21st century Extension professional, skills of the future knowledge worker, Extension Reconsidered and the Second Machine Age. This missing piece is the discussion on what leadership for the knowledge and rapid changing environment should look like. 

_-_  complexity [1]Leadership in today’s globally connected, technology-charged, and democratized economy is not the same that as leadership that drove the industrial age--where goals were achieved with directed and controlled with top-down hierarchies. Traditional organizational theory focuses on the ability to avoid uncertainty. In the knowledge economy, knowledge producing organizations focus on organizing, creating, capturing, and distributing knowledge and information. Today’s leaders need to find ways to achieve adaptability and ongoing learning from within and outside of the organization in order to improve the capacity to address complex challenges with innovative solutions.

Mary Uhl-Bien, (mbien2 at, Russ Marion, (marion2 at, and Bill McKelvey, (mckelvey at developed the Complexity Leadership Theory which is a framework that describes three leadership functions--administrative, adaptive, and enabling of a modern knowledge organization.

Administrative leadership is the formal managerial functions of planning, controlling, coordinating, acquiring resources, building a vision, and managing organizational strategy that represents the hierarchical and bureaucratic functions of the organization. Complexity Leadership Theory suggests that administrative leadership exercises authority with consideration of the need for creativity, learning, and adaptability, so that its actions can have significant impact on these dynamics.

Adaptive leadership is an informal, emergent, and complex dynamic rather than a person of authority. The creative actions and learning that emerge from the interactions of adaptive systems are the sources of change for the organization. Tensions of constraints and conflicting needs, ideas, preferences, and cooperative efforts produce flexible outcomes in adaptive social systems.

Enabling leadership fosters and facilitates conditions for adaptive leadership to emerge and accelerate adaptive system dynamics. Enabling leadership is about creating conditions and dynamics that allow for cooperative interactions and knowledge flows to allow shared creativity, problem solving, and learning. Enabling leadership can be found anywhere.

The framework sets the stage to create ways to lead in complex adaptive environments and enables continuous creation and the capturing of knowledge. Organizations that are “complexly adaptive (possessing requisite complexity)” are optimized for knowledge development and adaptability. The Complexity Leadership Theory is specifically designed for knowledge producing organizations.

Complexity Leadership Theory suggests that managers should enable contexts and environments where informal learning can emerge. These three leadership functions are entangled. There are conditions in which authority needs to be invoked. At other times, complex environments are needed to address complex problems.

Specifically speaking of public universities and Cooperative Extension, how can we prepare and organize to be adaptive and encourage a design mindset, virtual collaboration and sensemaking? We talked about hiring new people who have these skills. We talked about helping our current professionals adopt new skills. We have not talked about the changes in the way we approach leadership.

As I read about Complexity Leadership Theory, I thought of some examples of more inclusive engagement and how some within the ranks--faculty and local educators are pursuing knowledge broadly from diverse sources. Through seeking knowledge and connections and working outloud, they are helping the organization adapt and are enabling change. Additionally there is some discussion that Extension could cultivate the way to build more engaged land-grants. We need to start discussions on how we can become a more open, participative, continuously learning organization.

Cooperative Extension and land-grant universities are no doubt knowledge-producing organizations. Complex Leadership Theory is about creating conditions--in relation to the bureaucratic structure--for which emergent learning, knowledge, and solutions can arise. In this democratized knowledge era, there is a greater need to absorb knowledge from many sources, make sense of that knowledge, and co-create operative solutions to complex problems. Traditional top down approaches will not be effective as they have in the past. The Creative Leadership Theory provides a framework for which we should consider in our Extension organizations. 

Note: Thanks to Jeff Miller who shared the Complexity Leadership Theory with me and to Gae Broadwater who helped edit this post.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Reasons to Quit Your Job

A week or so ago, one of the LinkedIn articles that popped up as a suggested read was "Four Reasons to Quit Your Job" by By Jack and Suzy Welch. I thought sharing the article may cause people to second guess me. Instead I believe the article is a general primer to ask pertinent questions about jobs and career paths. Here are my responses to the questions: 

Do you want to go to work every morning? 
Yes indeed. I enjoy my work and though I have certain objectives for each day, I don't know what will happen that may make me rethink, question, plan and react. I also love having a great deal of freedom at work. 
I admitted this week and over the last couple of years to a few close colleagues and now I am admitting openly that I would have difficulty going to a traditional position in my organization. I have experienced the benefits and challenges of working remotely, across organizations, with different federal agencies, connecting and learning with many smart people online, and seeing vast and diverse perspectives. Going back to a localized position that would not respect the ability to reach beyond the geographic boundaries would feel confining.
Do you enjoy spending time with your coworkers or do they generally bug the living daylights out of you? 
Yes, indeed I enjoy my coworkers. We have fun! I have been fortunate to have worked and am working with groups of people I enjoy and respect. Don't get me wrong. We debate, disagree, occasionally get angry, and become frustrated. I enjoy and find getting to know my colleagues helpful in working with them. Though it is sometimes believed that one should not ask and seek personal information about our work counterparts, I find knowing and understanding pieces of their personal lives, what makes them tick, and what ticks them as all very helpful in my working with my colleagues. I don't seek to learn about colleagues for the purpose of judgment but as matter of understanding. It is all fascinating to me.
It may seem corny that some of my colleagues have become my close confidants and wonderful friends. My close working groups over the last two decades 1) have good intentions, 2) want to make a difference, 3) are respectful, 4) speak their minds, 5) value working toward goals, and 6) have perspectives that vary greatly.
I also believe that the conflicts and disagreements we have are actually good for the organization to grow and improve.
Does your company help you fulfill your personal mission? 
Yes. I believe in the greater good. I believe in the value of higher education and the mission of education and for the purpose of improving the quality of life. My public servant work and life that is deeply rooted in education and a zest to find application through research is a great fit for me.
Can you picture yourself at your company in a year?
Yes. of course. Though, I think the question should be: "Can you picture yourself in the same organization and feeling that the organization is improving and that you are happy?" To that question I would also say "yes".
There are many pressures to perform in our organization--to show value. We are quite possibly at a crossroads to convince others of our value, change direction, and/or narrow our focus. The pressures are just that--pressures. Our executive director continues to tell us to "take care of yourselves"--it is great advice. He has seen the passion and desire for us to do the right thing--not only for our national efforts but for the overall federated system. The job in no way is an easy job right now, but it is important, very important, and very misunderstood.

My current jobs are the types of challenges that energize me. 

I am blessed. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Guest lecture on Extension engagement and eXtension

I was asked to guest lecture for a graduate level Extension Methods class and to cover in 40 minutes eXtension, use of social media in Extension, engaging traditional and non-traditional audience via technology. Other instructions were: “Have some fun with the group. Include anything (relevant) that you wish you knew at a young Extension agent/ what skills will tomorrow’s agent need to be successful.”
I was rushed and frankly did not prepare enough for an explanation of eXtension. This post is my attempt to explain eXtension and share openly some of the discussion. I am trying to become better at “working outloud” as Harold Jarche drove home the point in the panel discussion at National eXtension Conference.

I start most of my presentations with questions to the people in the room. The answer to the first question, “What is Cooperative Extension’s best resource?” is always “its people”. I have never heard anything different. The reason I asked this question is that it is people who build relationships. It is those relationships should be made and maintained online—just as we expect Extension professional to establish relationships in their physical meetings.
The second question was: “What makes Cooperative Extension the best choice—the optimal choice—possibly the only choice for its mission?” One lady answered it is the people and diversity of expertise Extension has (apologies to the engaging lady for my severe shortening her response. The other response was that Extension provides research-based information.
By all means Cooperative Extension needs to continue to provide research-based information, but Cooperative Extension is not the only organization or individuals who are doing that. Citizens provide research-based information as well as other universities. We are all aware of that there are many people and organizations that share information that is not grounded in research. We also have to remember that research can sometimes provide mixed, conflicting, and undecipherable information. There is growing evidence that the trust of universities is waning. People do trust other people who are in their friend and colleague circles.
There are several references on the topic of trust in universities. These are just a sampling:
Cooperative Extension’s Past
At one time, everyone knew the Extension agents. Extension agents were seen as responsive. They not only provided home & farm visits, but they included farmers and others in research. The local Extension agent was known as the link to the land grant universities. They were the connection to the most recent research and they were the ones who introduced young people in the community to higher education and land grant institutions. Extension agents were a part of the elite group in the community with college degrees.
Cooperative Extension’s Present
 In 1993, Dave King wrote a Journal of Extension article about Cooperative Extension’s image deficit. We also know from the 2009 Copernicus study that the younger the generation is less likely to know of Cooperative Extension or will have ever used Cooperative Extension. Though the study concentrated on the branding issues and not making the link from our flagship programs—4-H and Master Gardeners—I also believe that we are not reaching enough people. The study also showed that for those people who have used Cooperative Extension they thought Cooperative Extension provided value.

Who has heard of and used Cooperative Extension?

We can’t talk about changes in last few decades without talking about the significance of Tim Berners-Lee proposal in 1989 that created what we now know as the Web. Berners-Lee released the code for free for an “information management” system. We not only owe Berners-Lee for his foresight in technology but also his vision and continued voice in understanding the depth and breadth of the advantage of that the “free code” and campaigning for Net Neutrality.

John Hartley, a student in the class, referred to some opinions that mobile devices are killing the idea of hyperlinks because data are sitting in silos and not including hyperlinking—the foundational concept of the Web. The social online abilities are obvious changes as well.

Skills for Cooperative Extension Professionals.
We briefly talked about the six drivers of change that the Institute of the Future describes in their report on the work skills needed for future knowledge workers.  The drivers are: rise of smart machines and systems, globally connected world, superstructed organizations, new media ecology, computational world, and extreme longevity. In this report, IFTF describes 10 skills needed for the future.

We also talked about the Extension Committee on Organization & Policy (ECOP) sponsored a study on the skills needed for the 21st Century Extension professional. Skills from both of these studies are shown in this table.  

Future of Extension
In one slide I talked about the future of Extension and these are some of the things that I discussed that Cooperative Extension needs to be doing:

  • Build new relationships and maintain traditional relationships online.
We cannot scale ourselves by with our current face-to-face relationships. Also there are many potential clientele who simply do not have a desire to drive to the county office or attend a physical meeting. Even some of our current clientele are asking for more flexibility in learning opportunities.  
  • Learn informally through information flow and others online.
Cooperative Extension professionals are the epitome of knowledge workers. Extension, like many organizations, does not have the capacity to provide all training and knowledge to its professionals. Cooperative Extension professionals should have the desire and flexibility to learn informally from others through online networks. Using the relationships with others to filter and focus on pertinent information. 
  • Seek diversity.
Cooperative Extension has tried to provide services and employment by seeking demographic diversity. We also need to be more cognitive of seeking out clientele and others who have different political ideals, social beliefs, disciplines, and culture. Diversity of thought provides opportunities for innovation and improvement our reach and impact of our programs.
  • Integrate research and extension beyond what we currently do.
  • Know that we are not the only experts and that complex problems cannot be solved and forced (i.e., through logic models).  
The Cynefin framework describes how solutions for complex problems derive different results and cannot fit into neat model. Rather that complex problems should be address in a probe, sense, and respond.
  • Learn outloud and curate.
    • Extension has traditional been very good curators, putting information into context and meaningful descriptions. To increase our reach and impact, we should provide our knowledge and curate online in open and transparent forums.

A few of my own thoughts on the attributes are a successful future for ExtensionTransparency and openness in our work, decisions, and findings.
  • More open licenses.
All Cooperative Extension materials were public domain before 1990. Creating and scaling our work cannot be done easily through all rights reserved products (Creative Commons licenses that allow for easy sharing and remixing).
  • Inclusion of people outside of Extension, particularly passionate amateurs in our work this allows for scaling our work without growing our organizations.
  • Ability to test (and fail) more easily to acquire more agility and innovativeness.

There is no federal or centralized system for Cooperative Extension. Cooperative Extension obviously has federal ties with USDA, ECOP and Association of Public Land-grant Universities.  eXtension provides opportunity to find synergies across state lines with a national online presence. eXtension is more than a web site—it’s a presence, it’s professional development, and it’s a mechanism to breakout of our geographic buckets.

eXtension is currently funded through New Technologies of Ag Extension (NTAE) and assessments from the Cooperative Extension institutions.

Content is built through collaborative efforts among Cooperative Extension faculty. Communities of Practice (CoPs) provide the mechanism to develop content (content is more than the text, content is also videos, webinars, social media, etc.). There are opportunities for
CoPs sometimes include others outside of Cooperative Extension. is the hub for eXtension.

Ask an Expert is an opportunity for anyone to ask questions on through widgets. These widgets can be installed on any web site. AaE provides one-to-one engagement prospects that are analogous to telephone calls that come into county offices.  People ask questions through Ask an Expert widgets and Cooperative Extension/University staff and volunteers answer them. AaE widgets can be customized for area of interests—generally around the CoP topics or locale. Many county offices use the widgets and direct the questions to their own staff. Questions can be distributed throughout the Cooperative Extension system, in other words the system has the “local offices’ back”. A public option is available for the questions so the questions can be searched and commented on increasing the opportunities for discoverability and engagement.  Reports are available by state and individual. This feature is helpful for end of year reporting for Extension professionals.

There were 48,000 questions last year answered through AaE. 54% of the people asking questions had never heard of Cooperative Extension. 44% of the people described that their questions had some or significant economic value.

Texas answered the most questions. Many questions come from metropolitan areas, like Houston (Harris County).

Learn is a listing of synchronous online professional development and other learning opportunities. Events listed maybe hosted by eXtension, others in Cooperative Extension and other entities. Anyone can post events in Learn with Google, Twitter, Facebook or eXtension IDs.  Each page for each learn event can serve as holding place for everything related to the event. Those posting the events can include descriptions, time, dates, connection information, slidesets, additional reading material and recording links.

Those interested in the events can add them to their calendar, follow the event for changes, and comment on the events by logging in with Google, Twitter, Facebook or eXtension IDs.  Those who “follow” events can see are listing of all the events they participated and presented.

There were 494 webinars listed in Learn in 2013.

Campus is an asynchronous integrated online learning platform using Moodle. Campus provides course delivery tools and services that can uniquely combine web pages, videos, books, lessons, assignments, forums, chat, certificates, databases, glossaries, quizzes, journals, and questionnaires into personalized learning environments.
Courses can have closed or open enrollments. Courses can be fee-based or free.

The CoPs issued almost 15,000 certificates in 2013 and had 21,000 active users. There are more than 573 courses in Campus.

Create  is the main place where the CoPs collaborate. Create is also used an internal work space. When articles are written collaboratively in Create, reviewed by peers, and copy edited they are then published to published to  where the content is indexed in search engines. Though anyone can see the content in Create, one must have an eXtension ID and belong to the community to edit anything in Create.

People  is where one obtains an eXtension ID, creates a profile, list social networks and interests, and indicates profile settings for Ask an Expert, Create, Learn, and Data. People serves a springboard for any work that requires an eXtension ID. People is great way to find communities and colleagues .

In closing, I proposed these questions for the students to consider:
  • What are the forces important for Extension and land-grants to adjust to?
  • What should Extension focus on that will make us successful in the future?
  • How do those focus areas affect our work force?


Starting to work out loud by Harold Jarche

National eXtension Conference Master Panelists

Online book, Trust in Universities, written by academics address several issues with trust in universities.
Facing the Image Deficit by Dave King

An analysis of the priority needs of Cooperative Extension at the county level by Harder, Lamm and Strong

How the iPhone is killing the ‘Net

The 21st Century Extension Professional (the ECOP sponsored study) Webinar and Slideset

Skills for 2020 Knowledge Workers

Learning and Working within a Learning Network

Other recommended readings:

Harold Jarche’s blog:

Ongoing finds in connected organizations

Ongoing finds in personal learning

Dave Gray’s eXtension National Conference Keynote

Jane Hart’s eXtension National Conference Keynote

Jane Hart’s blog Learning in Social Workplace