A study report documenting the transformative effects of eXtension on Community of Practice members will be officially released in the next several weeks. The results are based on data collected from entries in the transformation section of the Community of Practice Profiles submitted by 11 Communities of Practice in June 2009 and individual interviews with 12 Community of Practice members from nine Communities of Practice completed in May, 2010. The results indicate that without question, eXtension is having a transformative effect in changing the manner in which these individuals do Extension work. Key transformative themes and effects that emerged from the two data sets are:
• Enhanced teamwork and professional contacts: eXtension has changed the way that Extension professionals think and act about working together. A majority of individual Community of Practice members commented on how they now spend time working in teams rather than individually. This has also led to an increase in their own expertise as a result of creating educational content in a Community of Practice. Working in multi-institutional and state teams have made them more aware of research and educational activities occurring in other states and countries, has allowed them to make new contacts with other experts they may never have discovered (within other universities as well as other agencies), and has improved the scope of their educational outreach efforts. As one Community of Practice member commented, “It’s given me the opportunity to get to know colleagues in the same area…who I would never have collaborated with before.” Finally, working in eXtension has allowed them to work past some of the traditional boundaries between landgrant universities to work together on content.
•Increased utilization of new tools/technologies: eXtension has provided the technical expertise to allow individuals to learn and explore new tools/technologies that are not readily or easily accessible on university campuses. As one Community of Practice noted: “eXtension has pushed some of the Community of Practice members to work with new technology such as the wiki, Breeze conferences, and the FAQ system.” eXtension has made available a whole new set of tools/technologies (e.g., webinars, chats, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs) that are broadening and enhancing Extension’s capabilities to reach and interact with traditional as well as new digital audiences.
•Broader content and outreach: Due to interaction within and among Communities of Practice, educational materials are broader in content and are being made available to a wider audience than could have been achieved through an individual institutional/state focused effort. As one Community of Practice commented, “Community of Practice members found that participating in a collaborative work environment stimulated their outreach efforts because they were not responsible for being the sole source of all information.” This comment appears to emphasize the notion that Extension professionals involved in eXtension are realizing that we can leverage the resources of the entire system to meet the needs of state and local clientele by working collaboratively together.
The full report will be made available to the Extension system in the next several weeks. If you have questions, please contact Mike Lambur, eXtension Evaluation and Research Leader at firstname.lastname@example.org.