University of Arkansas Begins Research on Aging and Second Life®

Mather Cafe

Can social activity in an immersive virtual world help older persons feel better?

A new research project based on eXtension’s Morrill2 region in Second Life®
will look at how the psychosocial well-being of older persons may be impacted by their exploration of the Second Life 3D virtual world.

The subjects of the study will access Second Life on computers at Northwest Arkansas Area Agency on Aging Senior Centers, where staff will be trained to assist along with trained volunteer guides in the virtual world. The participants will enjoy a combination of guided activities and independent exploration.

Timothy S. Killian, PhD, University of Arkansas School of Human Environmental Sciences will lead the study, which is funded by the Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging. Co-Investigator is Dennis Beck, Assistant Professor of Educational Technology at University of Arkansas. Other partners include Virtual Ability, Inc., Arkansas Division of Aging and Adult Services; along with LuAnn Phillips, eXtension’s Virtual Worlds Specialist, and Dr. Rodger Marion of University of Texas Medical Branch.

eXtension is assisting the study in several ways. Throughout the conceptualization and implementation phases of the project, eXtension is providing expertise and guidance. A home location in Second Life was built, modeled after a Mather Café activity center, where Extension educators will offer the subjects classes in nutrition, financial management, caregiving, and horticulture. A device is being designed to gather data about the subjects’ behavior and activities. eXtension will work with the team to develop guided field trips for the subjects. Finally, eXtension will assist with dissemination of results through publications, conferences, and media.

To begin development of your own research project in a social virtual world, contact LuAnn Phillips:


What can Google Apps do for You Today?

Many people across eXtension are familiar with the many products Google offers. The suite of products is generally referred to as Google Apps. Common Google Apps include Google Docs, YouTube, Google Hangouts (and Google Hangouts on Air), Blogger, Google Analytics, Google Maps, and of course, Google Mail (Gmail) as well as many more. When looking at the Google Apps suite, a question for many is “do any/all of the Google Apps have direct advantages to serving the Cooperative Extension mission?” In other words, why would you as an individual, or even “you” as an Institution use and adopt this particular technology application?

Part of the proposed new eXtension strategic plan includes a process by which technology tools and workplace advances can be evaluated and demonstrated in the context of the needs of the Cooperative Extension Service as a whole. The use of Google Apps, and the potential uses within CES, is one of the technologies being looked at by a group of users from across the System.

The nine-member “Google Apps for CES” team has been tasked with shedding insight on the use of Google Apps – specifically in the context of use in the CES system (individually, state/regional, or national level). Not only are they looking at Google Apps, but they are also using the Google App tools “by example” to demonstrate their use to CES. The group has been tasked to give guidance on some areas that can help entities within CES evaluate these tools. Tasks include:

1.) What Google Apps compliment the work process of CES educators (create efficiencies, teach proficiencies, provide new collaboration opportunities, support clients)
2.) Who is using Google Apps across the system and what have they learned?
3.) What processes, or pitfalls might CES encounter with these tools or technologies that need to be identified?
4.) What ways do Google Apps help serve the CES mission of creating channels for science-based information to reach the public?

The short-term goal of this group is to provide insight to those that need it across the system on the value of Google Apps to CES. As a long-term goal, additional training (both virtual and on-site) would be available. If you can’t wait to see what this group has to say, you don’t have to! They have created some spaces (using Google Apps tools of course) for you to watch and join right away:

Google Plus Commuity – Google Apps for CES

Blogger site – Google Apps for Cooperative Extension

You have the opportunity to use many of the Google Apps by signing in with your eXtensionID. In order to do that, you will need to know your eXtensionID (found in the People eXtension app – and your password you use in eXtension. Detailed instructions can be seen on our short video eXtHelp – Using your eXtensionID to Access with Google Apps [Video] 2:31.


Food Security Conference Features CES Potential, Capacity


The eXtension Community, Local & Regional Food Systems (CLRFS) Community of Practice will host a national Food Security Conference entitled: Building Extension Capacity to Address Community Food Security through Food Systems, September 29 – October 1, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. The goal of the conference is to concretely position food security as a priority in food system research and practice, and to enhance Cooperative Extension’s capacity to work on food security and food systems.

Registration is now LIVE for the CLRFS Food Security Conference.
Follow this link to the registration site:

DO NOT REGISTER RIGHT NOW IF YOU ARE APPLYING FOR TRAVEL REIMBURSEMENT VIA THE SURVEY ( See more information on the survey below. You will need to wait until after the deadline to see if you will receive reimbursement and at that time you will be given a special link to register for the conference. If you haven’t filled out the survey, please do so. You only have until August 22.

Click here to see the current Agenda. The conference will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn Cleveland Downtown, 1100 Carnegie Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, 44115. Phone: 216-658-640. Conference room rate is $111 plus applicable taxes. Parking is $12 for overnight and $5 per day for attendees who are not staying at the hotel.

The hotel block is set up and ready to accept reservations. The Group Code is OSU. You may call the hotel directly (216-658-6400) or call Central Reservations (1-877-782-9444) and give them the group code (OSU) or ask for the OSU AFRI Food Security Conference Room Block. To make your reservations online, go to using the group code.

Organizers have funds to provide partial travel reimbursements for up to 60 participants. The reimbursements are granted on a limited, first-come, first-served basis with a bonus point system. They are available in amounts ranging from $200-$500 per recipient. The deadline is August 22, so hurry and fill out this survey to apply. Conference organizers are striving for diversity among attendees and they are strongly encouraging EVERYONE to apply for a reimbursement.

If you have any questions about the conference , please direct them to Katie Wright (

The Community, Local & Regional Food Systems (CLRFS) goal is
to provide resource materials, training opportunities and collegial interaction for Extension Educators, community-based practitioners, and individuals involved in work related to building sustainable and equitable food systems.


eXtension Strategic Plan Interim Report Accepted by ECOP


The Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) has accepted the interim report on the eXtension Strategic Planning process chaired by Keith Smith, Ohio State University. See for a summary of the new Innovation Foundation (working title) designed to augment electronic capabilities of participating institutions.

The business model calls for a membership structure in place of the current assessment process. The final report is due to ECOP at its October face-to-face meeting in Lexington, KY. (From the Monday Minute)


Ask an Expert Updates, Improves, Adds Features

Improved submitter sign-in page

When someone submits a question, they may view or edit it using a protected URL. If we don’t recognize the submitter (e.g. they are visiting using a different browser), we display a sign-in landing page. The landing page design has been cleaned up to make the actions more obvious for both submitter and signed-in experts.

The catalyst for this change is that we have gotten reports from submitters who received the evaluation, but missed the actual response. To address that issue, explicit wording has been added to the evaluation email indicating where they can view their response (which points to the protected URL described above.)



Improved question history

At the bottom of every question page (on the expert side) is the history of activity related to the question. This listing has been cleaned up and made much easier to scan and read. In particular, it’s easier to see who made what tag changes.



Location editing added to Helping Hand feature

The Helping Hand feature allows any expert to edit the away status and expertise tags for another expert. This can be useful if someone has gone on vacation and didn’t set their account as away, or if they have tags that need to be cleaned up. We just expanded this feature to include expertise locations. This addition can be useful to group leaders as it would allow them to help standardize location settings among members and ensure a better distribution of questions for that group.

Any changes made through the Helping Hand page are logged in the expert’s profile history. (The expert also gets a notification.) As a part of this release, location changes were added to the profile history, and the history display was updated to be easier to scan and read.

The history display update includes making it easier to see which tag was added or deleted. Previously, changes to tags were buried in a dense list of all tags. Now we only display the individual tag which was changed.



Better error/success message styling for widgets

We had reports that the feedback messages were not being noticed. The new styles make it much easier to see.



eXtension Launches Community, Local & Regional Food Systems


eXtension is pleased to announce the formal launch of the Community, Local & Regional Food Systems (CLRFS) Community of Practice.

This resource is designed to provide information and networking opportunities for educators, community-based practitioners, policy makers, farmers/growers, families, and those individuals involved in building equitable, health-promoting, resilient, and economically balanced food systems. The community of practice 1) creates new content; 2) compiles and summarizes information published by member organizations; 3) and has as a goal to offer a unique, online meeting place for diverse groups and interests to share information and learn from one another. CLRFS resources you can use and contribute to:

· Feature and Resource articles on a number of relevant topics pertaining to local, regional, and community food systems.
· Links highlighting issues pertaining to local, regional, and community food systems.
· CLRFS frequently asked questions through eXtension’s “Ask the Expert”
· CLFRS webinar series
· Meet the CLRFS members through eXtension’s “Expert Bios”
· Social media, including Facebook and an eCoP listserv (

This launch coincides with the publishing of our first series of articles for our winter “call for articles!” Each new CLRFS article is posted to the site.

Many thanks to the authors for their contributions on such topics as wholesale markets for local foods, urban agriculture, food security, local food business models, and much more! And a big thank you goes to our editorial team for their work in publishing the materials: Phil D’Adamo-Damery (Virginia Tech), Jill Clark (The Ohio State University), Cole Ehmke (University of Wyoming), Joanna Lelekacs (NC Cooperative Extension), and Kim Niewolny (Virginia Tech). We are now accepting new articles on a rolling basis. Please visit the CLRFS site for more information about submitting an article. You may also find guidelines on writing Feature and Resource articles here:


June: A Numbers Story for MFLN


Evaluation in the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) requires a blend of quantitative and qualitative vantage points: we learn as much from our metrics as we do from observations, feedback, reflective discussions, conversation analysis, and, well, a good story. So while we often take our numbers straight-up, we wouldn’t be able to tell a complete story of June without mixing in a little allegory, some metaphor, and here and there, a dash of hyperbole with those numbers.

June. Neat.

In June the MFLN offered its first-ever virtual learning event (VLE). The Personal Finance concentration area hosted Money Behavior: How People Make Financial Decisions. This three-day learning event of four webinars, six presenters, and two hours of Q&A attracted almost 700 participants who collectively earned 1,197.5 continuing education units from the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education.

Symbolically, June

During the course of the VLE, there were highly unusual internal connectivity issues with the Adobe Connect system. Anyone who has participated with online webinars understands that there are often minor hiccups involved. We wished we had just these. But we didn’t. We won’t recount the list of challenges we faced over those several days, because this story is about numbers, not about technology.

Despite rolling connection drops, room changes, locked-out guests, stuck slides, failing audio, and mounting frustration all around, we had nearly 700 participants! They kept coming back! They hung in there! A few were angry, most understood, many laughed. The chat pod conversation was more lively than it’s ever been. Participants were interacting directly with each other, sharing their own resources, asking and answering questions—all measures of high-level engagement and indicators of a co-constructed knowledge environment.

Jerry Buchko, an MFLN Personal Finance and Network Literacy advocate, even took over the reins and led the presentations while our own presenters clamored to overcome the technical challenges. The number 700 wasn’t just a great participation metric; it tells a story of our participants’ loyalty and patience; it tells us we offer valuable professional development that military family service providers need; and it reminds DoD and NIFA that their funding partnership dollars have really funded a community of military family service providers who learn and work together on the ground and online.

June, Metaphorically Speaking, or: War-gaming the VLE

MFLN leadership staff experienced the same connectivity issues as participants and presenters, but also needed to ensure that the VLE remained viable. With the help of back-channel chatrooms, texting, phone calls, mass e-mails, personalized e-mails, troubleshooting documents, some really smart people, some really calm people, an orientation toward customer service, a commitment to our work, and the ability to think fast on our feet, we problem-solved through our first-ever VLE to enable the delivery of high-quality educational content to 700 participants! Later, at the Department of Defense, eXtension champion Betsy Graham described our efforts as “war-gaming.” We were problem-solving in real time, playing out different scenarios, trying to foresee the nuances of a problem we didn’t know the extent of. “War-gaming” or not, we sure do like the notion that the way we instinctively work in the learning network (lack of sandbox notwithstanding) resonates so well with the Department of Defense.

June Hyperbole: Sky-high Participation Numbers for the MFLN!

Ok, it’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that MFLN participation numbers have reached the sky (as I understand it, 328,000 feet—the Kármán line—marks the boundary between atmosphere and outer space). But with the help of those 700 VLE participants, the MFLN reached quite a milestone in June: Since the start of the MFLN in 2010, we’ve had 7,007 participants attend our live MFLN webinars!

So that’s our June story, figuratively speaking. What a month! (And that’s an understatement!) Here’s to many, many more months of the same!


Guest Presenters Needed for Virtual Worlds Research Project


Do you have a short consumer presentation that is perfect for delivery to a senior–age audience? Perhaps this talk could be about horticulture, or nutrition, or personal finance.

We are looking for a few educators to help out with a research project involving groups of older persons who are visiting eXtension’s Morrill regions in Second Life. Your commitment would be to attend a brief orientation, then sign up for Second Life, meet in Second Life for a short training and rehearsal, and deliver your talk live in Second Life at two scheduled times (TBD) in August and September.

Sound like fun? Contact LuAnn Phillips, eXtension’s Virtual Worlds Specialist at


Australian eXtension Partnership Continues Growth

Aus site

The eXtension Australian partnership between the Australian Grains Research and Development Corporation and the Victoria Department of Environment and Primary Industries entered into a partnership in late 2013. The partnership is jointly developing pilot learning networks in the areas of Field Crop Diseases and Crop Nutrition.

Both learning networks are providing resources from public and private Research, Development and Extension specialists as well as a forum for the exchange of ideas between specialists, industry organizations, advisers and growers. eXtensionAUS is unlike any other information-based website. It is a network of people working together to provide well-researched information. It helps solve real-life problems in real time via web articles, social media and Ask an Expert information exchange. eXtension has been providing expertise and the technology infrastructure for their pilot. A public launching of their pilot learning networks is taking place as you read this update. Check them out.


New Learning Network Under Development

Ed Tech Learning Network

eXtension is pleased to announce the funding of the new Educational Technology Learning Network. The Educational Technology Learning Network will guide Cooperative Extension professionals on specific projects as they integrate technology with their content. They will share information about effective technology integration projects already in use, connect professionals with peers working on similar projects, and document efforts for future review.

The new learning network is lead jointly by The Ohio State University, Utah State University and New Mexico State University. The initial leadership team is composed of Jamie Seger and Jerry Thomas of Ohio State University, Paul Hill of Utah State University, and Barbara Chamberlain of New Mexico State University. Together they will engage others as well as their target audience to bring the new learning network to life. Stay tuned for exciting activities emerging from this learning network.


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