The Next Generation of eXtension Technology

As eXtension looks to 2020 and beyond, it has adopted a new set of tools, technology, and services to better serve the Cooperative Extension System. With the success of our legacy tools and custom coded platforms, eXtension has taken steps to preserve that valuable content and build upon the success of those tools. The new tools, technology, and services provide Extension professionals with greater flexibility, expand access to resources, and enable eXtension to deliver professional development for both its membership base and the Land-Grant university system as a whole. 

WordPress Sites for National & Multi-State Initiatives

eXtension has migrated the popular Articles platform to individual WordPress sites, with 24/7 support provided by Pressable, to provide Communities of Practice and other national & multi-state project teams a technology solution that offers modern publishing techniques, better marketability, and greater flexibility to these groups. Historically, content published through eXtension-offered technology receives an average of 11.5 million page views annually from millions of users that connect Extension expertise and content with the public. 

eXtension welcomes all national or multi-state Extension projects and programs in need of a supported WordPress site to utilize this free service supported by the USDA-NIFA New Technologies for Agricultural Extension (NTAE) cooperative agreement.  A directory of those websites, along with other national Extension project and program teams, can be found here. To get connected with creating your own WordPress site for your national or multi-state team, please contact our engineering team at contact-us@eXtension.org. 

Social Intranet & Online Innovation Skill-Builder 

In April 2019, eXtension’s Impact Collaborative launched a social intranet platform powered by LumApps. This social intranet runs across the Google Suite and is being used to connect the national cohort of Extension professionals with unique content, professional development opportunities, tools, resources, and to continue project and program engagement with the Impact Collaborative. At present, eXtension members have exclusive access to this technology, branded as Engage & Empower Online. Since then, 1000 Cooperative Extension professionals have joined this platform and are using it to participate in professional development opportunities, connect geographically dispersed teams through its collaborative features, and engage Extension project and program teams with resources and tools to help move them forward in their work. In 2020, alongside our network of 107 Facilitators at 50 land grant universities, eXtension will leverage Engage & Empower Online to reach more Extension professionals through the Impact Collaborative with an online version of its popular Innovation Skill-Building Experience and other tools and resources available within the platform.

Through funding made possible by the USDA-NIFA’s NTAE cooperative agreement, a new segment within this social intranet platform will be created focused on professional development in selected topic areas aligned with USDA strategic objectives, made available to all Land-Grant universities. This new segment within the technology will be branded as FlexLearn, and will be available in early 2020. 

eXtension members working with the Impact Collaborative will continue to have access to the more robust features of the platform, and exclusive content and learning opportunities. 

New eFieldbooks

eFieldbooks are created with Department of Defense Advanced Distributed Learning technology and are interactive multimedia ebooks that help establish processes and assist with the delivery of new programs. These books work on mobile applications and can be brought into the field. 

eFieldbooks that are currently available include:

  • Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (Version 1), Shatomi Luster-Edward, University of Missouri
  • Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (Version 2), Lindsey Lunsford, Tuskegee University
  • Evaluation Matters, Teresa McCoy, NAEPSDP Fellow, University of Maryland
  • Opioid Response, Mark Skidmore, Michigan State University
  • Urban Extension, Jodi Norman, NUEL Fellow, Colorado State University; Cynthia Pierfax, NUEL Fellow,, Prairie View A&M University

eFieldbooks are available on the eXtension website and within Engage & Empower Online. More eFieldbooks are planned for 2020. 

National Artificial Intelligence Initiative

Ask Extension is a new national initiative made possible by USDA-NIFA’s NTAE cooperative agreement, and will leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to pull together data sources from the Extension ecosystem to answer questions directly and accurately, and connect local citizens with their local Extension professionals, products, and services.

A national user group and product steering committee has been formed to address the hurdles that must be overcome for the successful deployment of this technology:

  • Maintain the quality services and “personal touch” that Extension is known for.
  • The recommendations and resources it provides must be correct, relevant, up-to-date, local and locally branded.
  • Respects the privacy of its users while also connecting them to local services and resource providers.
  • Respects provenance, ownership, and attribution of all resources. 

David Warren, Sr. Director of Digital Strategies, Oklahoma State University, leads the Product Steering Committee. Elliott Robson, EduWorks Corporation, serves as the Head of Development for this initiative. The Product Steering Committee acts collectively in the product owner function to inform the development of this new service. 

Members of the Product Steering Committee include:

David Warren, Sr. Director of Digital Strategies, Oklahoma State University
Elliot Robson, Head of Development, EduWorks Corporation
Larry Lippke, Director of Technologies and Services, eXtension Foundation
Ashwani Srivastava, Director AITC, Prairie View A&M University
Diana Haga, EDIS Library Coordinator, University of Florida, IFAS Communication
Stephen Judd, Manager of IT & Distance Education, University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension
Mark Bell, Vice Provost of Strategic Initiatives & Statewide Programs, University of California, Division of Ag & Natural Resources
Lucas Turpin, Director of Information Technologies, Oregon State University, Division of Outreach & Engagement & College of Agricultural Sciences
Alan Kurk, Chief Information Officer, Texas A&M University
Jon Emigh, Associate Director of Marketing Strategy & Operations, The Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences
Jon La Forest, Co-Director of the Southern IPM Center, University of Georgia
Ryan Wynkoop, Educational Technology Advisor, Purdue University
Jeff McCutcheon, Assistant Director of Operations, Ohio State University Extension

User Advisory Group

Larry Lippke, Director of Technologies & Services, eXtension Foundation will lead a User Advisory Group. The User Advisory group will include stakeholders that are currently using Ask an Expert to prioritize current functions and identify other functions that would help improve the user experience. 

Members of the User Advisory Group include:

Edward Beary, Master Gardener, Livingston County, Cornell University
Rhonda Conlon, Director – Extension Information Technology, North Carolina State University Extension
Lucy Edwards, Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension
Rebecca Finneran,Senior Horticulture Educator, Michigan State University Extension
Jacquie Jacob, Poultry Specialist, University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension
Denise Johnson, Program Manager, Master Gardener Volunteer Program, Ohio State University Extension
Jessie Moan, Statewide IPM Technician, University of Alaska-Fairbanks Cooperative Extension
Alison O’Connor, Horticulture Agent, Colorado State University Extension-Larimer County
Kym Pokorny, Communications Specialist, Oregon State University Extension Service
Alice Slusher, Extension Master Gardener, Washington State University Extension
Koralleen Stavish, Question Wrangler, University of Maryland
Jon Traunfeld, Director, Home & Garden Information Center, University of Maryland Extension
Ward Upham, Extension Associate, Kansas State University Extension
Julie Weisenhorn, Associate Extension Professor – Horticulture, University of Minnesota Extension
Ruth Willson, Director of Technology, Colorado State University Extension
Paul Winski, Harris County Extension Agent-Commercial Horticulture, Texas A&M Agrilife Extension

About the eXtension Foundation

The eXtension Foundation is a membership-based non-profit designed to be the engine fueling U.S. Cooperative Extension’s advancement in making a more visible and measurable impact in support of education outreach from land-grant universities/colleges located in every state and territory. eXtension provides an array of opportunities for Extension professionals that foster innovation creation, the adoption of innovations at member institutions, and increased impact of Extension programs.