Tag Archives: Laura Probyn

One-year-old performs beyond expectations

Our new Michigan State University Extension website is one year old today! With your help, the site has done extremely well. The latest statistics taken April 15 reveal we’ve had 1.8 million pageviews on the site!

The website’s beginnings go back to fall 2010 when Dr. Wendy Powers, director of the Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute, challenged Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Communications to build on the success of the CAT (Crop Advisory Team) Alerts that entomology specialist Joy Landis and her team had produced so successfully.

Joy; Dennis Bond, web administrator for ANR Technology Services; and communications manager Beth Stuever made quick work of creating and launching News for Ag in March 2011. Faculty and staff members shared their practical knowledge in Internet articles. The site gave farmers and others in agriculture access to the latest information and research.

Dr. Powers said, “Our intent was to demonstrate how this would work and the impact if might have. Fortunately, the site now reflects the breadth of MSUE by including all of the institutes.”

Eventually, educators and specialists from all four institutes lent their expertise and the MSU Extension website was born on April 18, 2012 – one year ago today.

You may recall that during Fall Extension Conference in October 2012, we hit the million mark for pageviews. The number of people who are engaging on our pages grows steadily. This last week produced some new high numbers. Our current lows are as big as the past highs! When we began this process, we considered 2,500 pageviews in a week an outstanding result. The highest day ever in News for Ag was in March 2012 with slightly more than 2,200 visits. The portal averaged about 6,000 visits PER YEAR. Now, we get more than twice that almost every day. In fact, in the last 30 days, more than 100,600 people have visited the site. Collectively, they have viewed 220,695 pages. And about 29,000 people come back to our site EVERY DAY.

To compare ourselves to other Extension services, Iowa State in the last 30 days had 587,402 pageviews, while we had 210,616. In a year’s time, we have grown to have almost half as many as they have. Keep in mind, they have a more mature site that includes ALL their events and all their 4-H information. We also have three times as many pageviews during the last 30 days as Kansas State Extension, and two-thirds as many as the Ohio State University Extension and as North Dakota State University Extension Service – all sites that have been around longer and are considered more mature than our site.

Extension specialist Cindy Straus worked hard on gathering these statistics and putting them into a format we could understand. Thanks, Cindy!

And really, the website is only part of the story. Articles that appear on the site are often picked up by traditional and digital media, thereby extending the value of every article written and helping us reach more people with pertinent education.

We’re making some great progress, partly because we have great content. However, we need more content to attract people to our website. Extension educators, reach out to faculty – whether they are Extension specialists or not – and offer them the opportunity to get more visibility for the work they are doing through MSU Extension website articles.

The MSU Extension web team includes Dennis, Sean Corp, Michelle Lavra, Laura Probyn, Marian Reiter, Cindy Straus and Beth Stuever.

A team of posters regularly upload or “post” articles that educators and specialists submit (hence, the term “poster”).

Beth said, “The posters are our front lines in working with educators and specialists to ensure high-quality, timely information is added daily.”

These posters include Mindy Maxwell Pratt (poster team coordinator), Sean Corp, Sandra Ennes, Mallory Fournier (under the supervision of Joy) and Katie Gervasi.

Thanks to all of these staff members and to all of you who are writing the articles and lending your expertise to the site. You’re making our numbers go up! You’re bringing a lot of attention to our programs that we wouldn’t have been getting without the new website.

Watch this week’s webinar at https://connect.msu.edu/p14evbgs7ij (at 50:39) to find out more.

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Filed under MSUE News

Help us keep the new website’s soft launch from having a rough landing

If you listened to my April 2 webinar and read the email that went out immediately following its conclusion, you know that we’ve launched a temporary site for our new MSU Extension website.

 I know I sound like a broken record, but please DO NOT share this site with others or bookmark it. It’s just a temporary location for everyone to see and the URL will change to our standard msue.msu.edu when it is formally launched.

 My thanks to ANR Technology Services (who developed the framework) and ANR Communications (the folks who are populating the site). They’ve done a great job.

 But I want to stress again that the site would not be possible without the work of our educators and specialists who identified the more than 80 categories that make up the site’s structure. They provided category descriptions and identified programs and resources. They’ve been delivering volumes of new content to the site every month.

 You’ll notice that since this site is temporary, certain features (like the search feature) are not functioning yet. Not to worry. We intend to have the search feature up and running in the final product. When I say “final,” I don’t mean static. This will be a dynamic website. We’ll regularly add up-to-date information from knowledgeable sources – our educators and specialists – that will keep bringing people back to the site. I’m confident reliable content coupled with ease of use will make this site one that’s visited often.

 Please share your ideas and information for the site with ANR Communications by April 16. Let ANR Communications know if there are any broken links or inaccuracies (such as in county contact information) or if you have questions or suggestions about the information that the site contains.

 Please send changes and comments to your institute’s representative within ANR Communications:

 Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute: Beth Stuever
Children and Youth Institute: Michelle Lavra
Greening Michigan Institute: Sean Corp
Health and Nutrition Institute: Katie Alexander

 You may also submit feedback or changes to this ANR Communications department email address.

 The site will close from April 16 to 23 for final adjustments. It will go live April 24. I hope that you are as pleased as I am about the outcome of all the work and looking forward to the positive comments from the folks who visit.

 I want to call out once again our colleagues from ANR Tech services and ANR Communications who helped keep us moving along: Dennis Bond, Kim Maida, along with Director Erica Ciupak from ANR TS and Sean Corp, Katie Alexander, Kathy Raphael, Marian Reiter, Beth Stuever, Michelle Lavra, Steve Evans, Laura Probyn, Fran Adelaja, and Mindy Pratt (whose name I missed on Monday) from ANR Communications, along with former Director Ruth Borger and Interim Director Kris Hynes. Thanks to all of you for keeping us moving forward!

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Filed under Technology

Webinar trains food entrepreneurs in following Cottage Food Law

Michigan’s Cottage Food Law, enacted in 2010, allows individuals to manufacture and store certain types of foods in an unlicensed home kitchen. It’s intended to support farmers markets by allowing certain value-added products to be sold without the expense and trouble of preparing them in a licensed commercial kitchen.

 The Michigan State University Extension Food Safety Team made a teaching webinar in order to meet the needs of Michigan residents in relationship to food safety pertaining to the Cottage Food Law. The webinar was the most efficient and consistent way of providing educational information to this audience. Led by food safety co-chairs and Extension educators Jeannie Nichols and Jan Seitz, the Food Safety team members include Jennifer Berkey, Robin Danto, Diana Fair, Eileen Haraminac, Jane Hart, Linda Huyck, Pat Joyce, Joyce McGarry, Laurie Messing, Lucia Patritto, Janet Rathke, Christy Rivette, Phil Tocco, Lisa Treiber, Chris Venema and Beth Waitrovich.

 Jeannie stated, “For us as educators, it meant learning about developing a professional, interactive and interesting site.”

 The team developed “MI Cottage Food Law Food Safety Training/Webinar” with support from Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications team members Laura Probyn, Steve Evans and Kraig Ehm. Laura edited and revised the initial script. Laura and Kraig voiced the project, and Steve edited the PowerPoint that was the basis for the webinar and built quiz and evaluation modules for the project.

 According to Jeannie, the quiz at the end of the webinar evaluates the knowledge that participants gain as well as their intent to use the information from the webinar. Once a participant completes the quiz with 70 percent accuracy, he or she can purchase a certificate to display at a farmers market booth. Farmers markets customers would then see that the vendor had taken the initiative to take some extra food safety training in relation to cottage foods.

 Food Safety Team members conducted face-to-face presentations throughout the state using the curriculum to validate its content and usefulness before it was made available online. To help with this project, the team applied for and received a Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) grant that allowed the production of this webinar including marketing materials.

 You can view the webinar here: http://vimeo.com/24282676

 Plans are underway to add the webinar to the governor’s weekly video feature rotation and to be placed on the MDARD’s YouTube channel.

 This is a great illustration of what the new MSUE is all about and how we’re embracing technology to achieve our mission. And it shows the interlinkage among work teams and institutes. Some of the greatest demand for the webinar is likely to come from individuals and businesses who sell homemade products at farmers markets, which are among the assets that we try to support through the community food systems group in the Greening Michigan Institute.

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Filed under Technology

New MSUE Bookstore online site launched

I was pleased to see that the new online version of the Michigan State University Extension Bookstore (formerly called the bulletin system) went live last week. This was a great joint effort by folks in ANR Technology Services (especially Bob Kriegel and Jim Brija) and ANR Communications (Steve Evans and Laura Probyn were the project coordinators).

It’s taken some time for this project to come together, but when you think that there are somewhere around 1,700 products in our system, the fact that the technology exists to enable us to build a store that looks a lot like the “big guys” who have much bigger pocketbooks and staffs is pretty amazing.

I’ll take a moment of silence now for the old CeeNet email system. Though we retired it from active daily use several years ago, it still provided the login and password system that the counties have used to order products from the Bookstore until the new system went live. Thank you for your service CeeNet; rest in peace. We’re now on par with the rest of the university, using the regular MSU login system for individual orders. Individuals should log in and create their own accounts to receive the discounted rate for items (formerly called the county price) and county staff members can log in using their respective county’s numeric email address (for example, Alcona County staff members will use msue01@msu.edu).

There are lots of other great bells and whistles on this site. Steve Evans has created the first of several handy-dandy webinars that folks can use to learn to use the system. There will be more to come, and we’ll be setting aside time in one of our upcoming Monday afternoon staff updates to talk more about the system. Associate Director Steve Lovejoy represented the Director’s Office in this venture and he’ll give us an overview of the system and how it works.  It’s encouraging to see the numbers of sales increasing already from this easily used site. Thanks to all who’ve been a part of this effort – it’s a great example of how we are “walking the talk” and using technology to help disseminate our work to the people who need it.

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Filed under redesign, Technology