Category Archives: eXtension

10 facts about MSU and eXtension you didn’t know

Chris Geith, CEO to the eXtension Foundation, provided me with some exciting news and information about eXtension. The mission of eXtension is to help Cooperative Extension System professionals increase their measurable local impact by helping them accomplish their work more effectively using an online constellation of people, resources and tools. Michigan State University Extension has a long and active history with eXtension and continues to partner with this great initiative. Here are 10 facts about our involvement with eXtension that you didn’t know.

  1. In 2015, 2,446 questions from Michigan residents were answered using the Ask an Expert system.
  1. 167 MSU Extension specialists, educators and volunteers helped to answer these 2,446 questions through Ask an Expert.
  1. eXtension also has two communities of practice led by MSU: All About Blueberries, led by Extension educator Mark Longstroth, and Community Planning and Zoning ‒ Land Use Planning, led by Extension educator Glenn Pape.
  1. For the Land Use Planning Community of Practice, MSU Extension and eXtension are partnering to pilot a third-party service to see if we can increase the usefulness of content and potentially generate new revenue sources together.
  1. This pilot partnership is not out of the ordinary; MSU Extension has a history of building new models with eXtension – such as MyHorseUniversity, which continues to have a strong relationship with the HorseQuest community of practice.
  1. Three members of the newly formed i-Three Issue Corps are from MSU: Mariel Borgman, Kaitlin Wojciak and Garret Zeigler. They are contributing to the Michigan Supply Chain Wizards that will address key issues in food systems and climate.
  1. MSU Extension also has almost 40 online courses available through the eXtension Campus/Moodle Because of MSU’s premium membership with eXtension, there are several important benefits available to MSU Extension staff.
  1. Recently awarded to MSU Extension, the $1.48 million New Technologies in Ag Extension grant includes instructional design by Gwyn Shelle, administrative support provided by Angela Jernstadt, with Chris Geith serving as the primary investigator.
  1. Gwyn is also a recipient of one of nine Innovation grants eXtension awarded last year out of almost 50 proposals submitted. Gwyn and Katie Ockert are presented at the National eXtension annual conference that takes place in San Antonio, Texas, March 22‒
  1. Bruce Haas served a critical role as a key advisor to the i-Three Issue Corps in the new “boot camp” at the event.

Thanks to Chris for welcoming me and sharing such great news from eXtension.

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eXtension announces new CEO from Michigan State University

Christine Geith is currently the assistant provost and executive director of MSU Global at Michigan State University, which assists faculty in creating, facilitating and implementing impactful projects that lead to new research and funding opportunities and that enhance the reputation of the university community. However, she will be taking on a new role as CEO of eXtension as of July 1. Not only is it exciting that MSU is going to be present on a national level, but also Christine’s experience aligns well with our goals for improving partnerships both locally and nationally.

“I believe the time is now for eXtension to form even deeper partnerships with Cooperative Extension directors and administrators, and with a variety of organizations, to enhance the Cooperative Extension mission and accelerate its local impact. The new eXtension Foundation is well positioned to lead an expanded vision and enable the adoption of new ways of serving local communities for Cooperative Extension nationwide,” said Christine, in the eXtension press release announcing her new role.

Her experience in new technology, particularly distance education, will also benefit eXtension, helping it adapt to the changing environment of online education and the difficulties associated with keeping up with those changes. This will help eXtension find new ways to improve digital strategy. I hope that our staff members will continue to find new ways to partner with eXtension as that strategy develops.

Congratulations, Christine! We’re excited to work with you!

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eXtension awards grant for developing adaptive learning techniques

The eXtension Foundation has identified nine projects that will be funded as part of its 2015 Innovation Request for Proposals. Forty-eight proposals were submitted, and nine were awarded for the granting period of July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016. Grantees will be required to engage in face-to-face meetings with the eXtension Foundation to gauge impact, conduct at least one professional development session on the project, and make a presentation at the 2016 National eXtension Conference next March.

Gwyn Shelle, Alan Pilkenton, Dawn Earnesty, Ellen Darnall and Erin Powell submitted the proposal “Building Personalized Learning Experiences for Adult Learners Through Adaptive Learning Techniques,” for which they have been awarded the grant. This project will evaluate and pilot adaptive learning tools for future Cooperative Extension programming. Adaptive learning refers to a nonlinear approach to instruction that adjusts to student needs as they progress through course content – resulting in a customized experience for the learner based on prior knowledge.

The team of experts will research several existing adaptive learning tools and consult with experts in the field of online learning who are currently implementing adaptive learning into their programming. They will design and deliver adaptive learning activities within existing Michigan State University Extension online courses through several selected pilot projects. Specific objectives of the project include:

  • Increase knowledge of adaptive learning tools through research and collaboration with leaders in the field of online learning who are investing in adaptive learning tools. Many adaptive learning tools will be assessed and ranked based on potential use within Cooperative Extension Services programming.
  • Design and deliver adaptive learning activities within existing online courses through several selected pilot projects. Online focus groups will be administered to receive qualitative feedback on the effectiveness of the adaptive learning method.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the adaptive learning activities through online evaluations, retention rates compared to traditional online content, and general course data.

This grant will go a long way toward helping MSU Extension reach our audiences in new ways, and we’re excited to see where it goes!

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Collaborate across state lines through an eXtension CoP

In last week’s Spotlight, I talked about how Michigan State University Extension works across state boundaries using Dr. George Sundin and the apple scab project as an example. I noted that Dr. Sundin collaborates with experts from other states in a way that integrates research and extension. A great way to collaborate across state lines is to join an eXtension Community of Practice (CoP). A CoP is a virtual network of content experts – faculty, specialists, industry experts, clientele and government agency representatives – who share knowledge or competence in a specific content area. Simply put, they work together virtually to advance research and education.

 CoPs create or assemble a database of educational products and resources, peer review educational products, contribute answers to questions from Ask an Expert and maintain ongoing engagement with the communities interested in their field (Communities of Interest).

 Among the benefits that far outweigh the work involved are opportunities for collaborative research with colleagues from multiple institutes and disciplines, access to the latest technology and more efficient delivery of educational services. If you’d like to find out about further benefits, want to join a CoP or maybe even create your own, visit the MSU Extension Professional Development portal site at

On the right top of the Web page, click on the title “Community of Practice: What – Why – How.” This will bring up a Microsoft Word document that will answer all of your eXtension CoP questions. I encourage you to get involved.

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eXtension selected for Google for Nonprofits program

The single nationwide Web presence for Cooperative Extension, eXtension, is another way U.S. land-grant universities provide objective and research-based information and learning opportunities that help people improve their lives.

Since the time our Michigan State University Extension eXtension Institutional Team (I-Team) was formed in Oct. 2009, we’ve made a lot of progress in the increased use and adoption of this Internet-based educational network by MSU Extension staff members and faculty. I’ve reported on that progress and even awards the I-Team has won for outstanding work with eXtension. Educators, specialists and faculty are answering questions on Ask An Expert, leading and participating in Communities of Practice (CoPs) and offering many professional webinars nationally through eXtension.

Recently, eXtension gained additional resources to further strengthen the interactive learning environment as our national “front door.” The eXtension Foundation, which exists to support the work of the national eXtension Initiative, has been selected to participate in the Google for Nonprofits program. Participating in the program gives eXtension access to a free or discounted version of Google Apps (applications). Through the Google grants program, eXtension will get free Adwords advertising and appear as an advertiser on Google search results pages, and have premium branding and increased uploads on YouTube as well as access to other applications. These products and resources will allow us to reach more potential donors or partners, raise awareness and improve business operations. Read about it here.

 The initial CoPs involved in the Google grants program will be DAIReXNET; Families, Food and Fitness; and Just in Time Parenting. Other CoPs will be included as knowledge and experience in participating in the nonprofits program is gained.

 Read more about the Google for Nonprofits Program:

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Michigan State eXtension shines nationally

Michigan State University Extension came off a winner at the 2011 National CoP (Communities of Practice) Workshop in Louisville, Ky., June 29, earning both a team award and an individual award for work with eXtension, the nationwide collaborative web presence for Cooperative Extension.

 The Institutional Teams from MSU and the University of Missouri received the first ever Be Grow Create awards for outstanding work in advocating for and integrating eXtension into their respective institutions. The award recognizes outstanding teams for planning, creativity, organized activities, web conference attendance, director interaction and institutional engagement.

 Team members are Wayne Beyea, Ruth Borger, Erica Ciupak, Kathe Hale, Michelle Rodgers, Chris Skelly, Lela Vandenberg and Liz Wells. Glenn Pape and Erica Tobe were also team members the first year the team was organized in 2009.

 The Institutional Team, known as the I-Team, has made significant strides in the two years since its inception. Most notable are the increases in eXtension IDs, Ask an Expert (AaE) resolved questions and CoP membership. An eXtension ID allows an educator or specialist to contribute to eXtension by answering questions or collaborating with CoPs. Given the strength and commitment of the team’s members and their ongoing effort to promote eXtension involvement, these increases should continue.

 Lela Vandenberg, senior MSU Extension specialist, was one of three recipients of eXtension’s first Be Grow Create Outstanding Institutional Team Member award. The award recognizes her responsiveness and engagement with MSU on behalf of eXtension, her role in institutional team development and sustainability, and eXtension advocacy.

 As chair, Lela has been the driving force behind the eXtension I-Team. She created a series of how-to handouts that have been shared widely. Her online AaE experiential training has dramatically increased staff involvement. More than 150 people have taken the hands-on course. After training, staff members feel competent and excited to answer questions on AaE.

 Lela has shown herself to be a tremendous advocate for eXtension. She’s presented at professional association meetings and statewide conferences to introduce eXtension to the MSUE community, encouraging participation. Lela has worked with the marketing and promoting subcommittee to recruit faculty and staff involvement. Through her leadership, MSU eXtension IDs have gone from 30 in 2008 to 223 in the first six months of 2011.

 The I-Team with Lela at the helm is helping to carry out two of the principles of our redesign – increasing responsiveness and adopting emerging technologies. Clearly, we are doing both with eXtension and winning awards in the process.

 Read more about the I-Team’s win here:

 Read more about Lela’s win here:

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eXtension earns an ‘A’ on report card

We have some exciting news to report regarding one of our principles of the redesign, “enhancing technology.” While there are many ways to measure our use of technology in carrying out our mission, one metric is the use of eXtension, the Internet-based collaborative environment where land-grand university content providers exchange research-based knowledge solving problems in real time. The 2010 report is out, and we’re surprised and encouraged by the progress we’ve made since our eXtension Institutional Team was formed in October 2009. This progress is thanks to many of YOU who are answering questions through Ask an Expert, leading and participating in Communities of Practice (CoP) with colleagues across the country, and offering national webinars to colleagues and the public. Here are some of the highlights of the most recent report comparing 2008–2010 data.

Metric 2008 2009 2010
Total Site Visits (number of individual sessions initiated by visitors to eXtension from Michigan) 25,626 54,069 66,589
Total Pageviews (number of pages viewed while at the eXtension site) 59,708 116,248 138,505
Answers to FAQs (frequently asked questions) Published by MSUE (peer reviewed and part of CoP) 35 17 58
Total Number of Questions Resolved by MSUE 152 264 723
eXtension IDs (total number of participating MSUE staff) 30 131 188

 Additionally, Michigan State University is represented by 146 eXtension members in 29 of the 47 approved Communities of Practice. And there’s more! To see the total state and institutional report for Michigan for the year 2010, go to the following website:

 Also note that the Ask an Expert feature is now on the new MSU Extension website and Lela Vandenberg and Liz Wells are training an increasing number of individuals to respond to questions that come in through this feature as well as the Ask an Expert feature on the national website.

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MSU Extension lends expertise to eXtension webinars

Michigan State University Extension is now able to offer professional development webinars nationally through their eXtension “Learn” system. These are open to Extension colleagues from all states, and are recorded and archived on their Learn site: Land-grant university content providers exchange objective, research-based knowledge to solve real challenges in real time in eXtension, an Internet-based collaborative environment.

Jeannie Nichols, health and nutrition educator, and the MSU Extension Food Safety Team in the Health and Nutrition Institute will present a webinar on May 27 at 11:00 a.m. EST, explaining their new “MI Cottage Food Law: Food Safety” online training for those interested in selling cottage foods. This webinar is an overview of the training for Extension professionals from all states and those from Michigan who may want to encourage their clients to take it. The site for the 30-minute webinar is

 Another MSUE staff member, Brian Wibby, children and youth educator, will present the eXtension webinar, “PowerPoint – Friend or Foe?” on July 20 at 2 p.m. EST.

 To view past webinars, go to eXtension Learn at Two previously offered by MSUE are included there: “Radon, Something You Can Live Without” by Jeannie Nichols and “Innovating with Social Media to Connect Communities: Learning from Disasters, Aiming for Resilience” by Theresa Bernardo, associate professor of veterinary medicine.

 If YOU want to offer a professional development webinar to a national audience, contact Lela Vandenberg, senior Extension specialist, at

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Orientation sessions, educators, specialists make eXtension successful

We’ve made progress in the six months Michigan State University Extension has been an eXtension pilot site. During the last six months, we have already answered 324 questions, as compared to 239 questions in the previous year. And we now have 44 people signed up to take on questions from our clients and stakeholders, as opposed to fewer than a dozen last year. This increase is due, in part, to the 30-minute orientation sessions Liz Wells and Lela Vandenberg have offered. Thank you to the 19 educators and specialists who have taken that session. And special thanks to those who have answered more than a few questions in the past year: Liz Wells, Chris Skelly, Mark Longstroth, Dan Pavuk, Judy Marteniuk, Karen Waite, Jenny O’Neal and Erica Tobe. We hope many more of you will sign up for future orientations and start answering questions. What better way to apply research-based information to the immediate concerns of our clients!

 Are you still wondering what eXtension is and how to get involved? Get started by watching a nine-minute presentation by Michelle Rodgers and Lela Vandenberg explaining what it is and how to get started. Visit the eXtension site by going to the professional development website at and clicking on the eXtension and Online Learning circle. Then click on the first link: “Getting Started in eXtension.” There are many other resources to explore there as well.

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