In October the USDA conferred its most prestigious distinction, the Honor Award, on the eXtension team. Those recognized included three of our own, Carla Craycraft, Craig Wood, and the late Larry Turner.
Carla and Craig, along with North Carolina and Nebraska colleagues, led the first stages of the ambitious national eXtension project. They continue to build a Web-based system that will not only enhance access to documents and vast information resources but also offer interactive learning features like ask-the-expert.
This award also provides a wonderful reminder of Larry Turner’s pioneering advocacy for applying advanced communications technology to extension education, not only here in Kentucky but on a global scale.
Just a few months ago, eXtension was publicly launched with about 15 resource areas completed. The ultimate goal is to include subject matter as comprehensive as the programs of extension itself. Check out the current version of eXtension at http://www.extension.org/.
The Web, e-mail, smart phones, and those amazing search engines have all been adopted so rapidly that we might take for granted how they have transformed education. Just a few years ago, it was uncommon for instructors to use the Internet in classes. Now, Web tools like Blackboard are standard practice for exchanging class materials, homework, and more. Classes delivered entirely through the Web have gradually but steadily increased.
If these technologies are so powerful, will they eventually make direct interaction with an educator obsolete? No way. The subjects we tackle are much too hands-on and real world to attempt without a human guide. Can you imagine trying to master animal, soil, or food sciences entirely on the Internet without seeing or touching the real thing?
The new technologies certainly are powerful tools to expand our reach. Yet on and off-campus, our College remains committed to active, engaged learning and face-to-face education.
M. Scott Smith