A time for renewal and learning

2014 Extension Conference and celebration of the 100th year of Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service.

Extension staff celebrates Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service’s 100th anniversary at the 2014 Extension Conference.

I don’t think there are many “firsts” left in my experience at Oklahoma State (okay, maybe a “first” national championship!), but a big one on my list is about to get checked off, and that’s my first Extension Conference, which will be held this week on the campus in Stillwater.

There’s something special about bringing Extension folks together from across the state, and I learned early in my Extension career that it’s not something to mess with. The professional development opportunities are great, and with a two-year wait between conferences, it’s amazing how much catching up there is to do. There’s no way we can hold all of the training we need, and the online, district and team training that takes place in between has become just as critical. Perhaps it’s the diversity of learning opportunities that really sets the Extension Conference apart from these stand-alone trainings.

One of the challenges for any organization is to keep up with the changes in the society we serve. Oklahomans are facing new opportunities and challenges in public services, employment opportunities and the nature of social dialogue. As a public land-grant institution, we have a responsibility and an obligation to understand and respond to society and the changes it’s experiencing, including being responsive to diverse interests and perspectives.

Issues related to gender equity are among those, and implementation of Title IX of the Education Act of 1972 requires that each of us learn about our responsibilities by participating in training on an annual basis. Oklahoma State provides this training in both face-to-face (available in the concurrent sessions at Extension Conference) and online formats. I’ve participated in the online version and found it informative and straightforward to complete. Regardless of your preferred training format, it’s imperative you complete this training each year. You can learn more about this requirement by clicking here.

Finally, there’s something more to Extension Conference than just the opportunity for efficiently providing professional development programs. It’s the opportunity for engaging with colleagues from across the state and to share in fellowship. There’s much to be learned from listening to colleagues explain how they discovered a new approach, curriculum or software. And there’s much to be gained through the simple imparting of stories, jokes, experiences and concerns with colleagues. Extension people are uniquely driven to serve others through educational programming. That need to serve others should be nourished by shared experiences, frustrations and shared solutions. Above everything else you experience at Extension Conference, be sure to take time to connect with colleagues you’ve only seen rarely since the last conference. This is a time for renewal as well as learning.

Return of the MOOC

Last year, DASNR was proud to lead OSU into an exciting new educational front by offering the university’s first Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC for short.

At the time, I wrote in this blog that MOOCs are a great way to engage people with a broad range of interests and from a broad geographic reach. The more than 700 people from 23 states and six countries who took “Farm to Fork: A Panoramic View of Agriculture” each achieved their own unique goals in participating in the first offering last spring.

photo_1.4.16I’m pleased to announce that DASNR will once again offer the 16-week “Farm to Fork” course in the same innovative, interactive format during the spring semester. Just like the first time around, it’s open to anyone who wants to know more about our food’s journey from the fields to our dinner tables.

“Farm to Fork” will be conducted entirely online. Participants can enroll for free or take the course for OSU credit for a reasonable online tuition fee.

Bailey Norwood, a highly regarded OSU professor of agricultural economics who was recently recognized with the OSU Outreach Faculty Excellence Award, returns as the course instructor. Dr. Norwood will ably lead participants through six modules featuring short videos, interesting virtual tours, relevant readings and stimulating discussion forums. For more on his creative and inspired approach to teaching, check out this profile in the 2014 edition of The Division Triangle.

“Farm to Fork” launches Jan. 11. For additional information or to register, visit http://casnr.okstate.edu/farmtofork.

Don’t miss this terrific opportunity to get an in-depth view of the link between agricultural science and the food on your plate.