Submitted to: Journal of Extension
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/9/2004
Publication Date: 8/31/2004
Citation: Twidwell, E.K., Venuto, B.C. 2004. Teaching a forage crops course to extension agents via distance education. Journal of Extension [On-line], 42(4). Available at: http://www.joe.org/joe/2004august/tt3.shtml.
Interpretive Summary: Declining enrollment in agricultural courses and budget constraints are causing many Agricultural Colleges to curtail course offerings. Recent development of distance education technology has made it possible to reach a larger student body and to include non-traditional students. However, student perception and acceptance of this technology as well as teaching efficacy needs to be evaluated. This paper summarizes the results of forage crop management courses taught over distance education to nontraditional students (County Extension agents). While these students were older than and not as proficient with new technology as younger students, their prior professional experience in agricultural situations allowed them to perform well. The distance education technology worked reasonably well, but the majority of students would still rather take courses in a conventional classroom setting. Results presented in this paper indicate it is difficult, with existing distance education technology, to provide the same level of direct student-instructor interaction available in a conventional classroom. However, this technology did allow this course to be offered to a much wider student audience and was an effective alternative to a traditional classroom setting.
Technical Abstract: Teaching courses using distance education via compressed video offers an interesting paradox. While this technology makes it possible for students to take courses without having to travel long distances, it may result in diminished interaction with the students. An excellent opportunity arose for several faculty members at Louisiana State University (LSU) to teach a forage ecology and management course over distance education to Extension agricultural field agents, many of whom had not taken a college level course in several years. All of the agents performed well in the course. While the distance education technology worked reasonably well in this course, the majority of the agents indicated that they would still rather take courses in a conventional classroom setting. Results of this teaching experience indicate that distance education technologies provide unique opportunities, but maintaining direct student-instructor interaction was difficult using the distance education technologies currently available.