Formal vs Informal Learning Environments: Moodle or Blog?

POST method

With so many options available to Extension professionals to deliver educational information online, it’s difficult to know which tools and learning environments are more suitable for different curricula or program topics. Some tools available to us operate in a more formalized learning environment – like an online course for credit or certification. Examples of formal learning tools are Moodle or Carmen. Most Extension programs should not utilize Carmen, since participants need to have a name.# in order to access the course. Informal learning tools are blogging platforms (, social media, educational webinars, Twitter Chats, and now even Live streaming. These are tools that can get much of the same information out to an online audience, but in an informal way. Remember to use the POST method when being strategic about what technology and learning environment you use… start with People… not with the technology. Below are some examples of when a formal learning environment would be appropriate, and when an informal approach makes more sense.

Classes or Programs that Award Certification

If you are currently teaching a face-to-face or online program that awards certificates or credit once the participant has completed the program, than it would be more appropriate for this program to be created in Moodle or a similar formal learning environment platform. If your class requires a lot of hands-on learning and application, it may be more appropriate for it not to go online and remain as a face-to-face program.

Examples of how it can be applied:

  • Budget or personal finance program (or similar) that awards a completion certificate to participants.
  • Classes in which quizzes are required or beneficial.
  • Curricula that can not or should not be be broken into topical segments to share via informal tools such as social media.

Campaigns or Program Themes

If you plan to focus on a topic theme over a specific period of time (an example would be sending out educational information and facilitating classes on local food during the summer months), than an informal learning tool like utilizing a blog or posting to social media would be more appropriate.

Examples of how it can be applied:

  • Networked social media campaign during which multiple social media feeds are sharing information on your specific topic during a specified period of time.
  • A series of 30-minute educational webinars.
  • A series of 2 minute videos.
  • A blog post series dedicated to your specific topic or focus area over a given period of time.
  • A Twitter Chat focused on your topic area.
  • Live streaming via Periscope or Meerkat during a local food event at your Fair.

Program Participant Follow-Up Opportunities & Further Education

Online audiences in 2015 take it upon themselves to search for educational information they’re looking for. Continuing education is becoming much more informal than it ever has been in the past because people tend to search what they want to learn and informally network with others who want to learn the same things they do. This gives us as Extension professionals the opportunity to tap into this desire and follow-up with previous program participants at the same time. With today’s online audience in mind, informal learning environments are much more effective for this.

Examples of how it can be applied:

  • Creating a Facebook group page (private or public) for Dining with Diabetes participants to join and share, learn, and keep in touch with one another after completing the program. This group page could be utilized to also share upcoming educational opportunities.
  • Invite previous program participants to regularly held Twitter Chats.
  • Ask program participants to subscribe to your blog or sign up for educational webinar announcements via email.
  • Create a hashtag for your program or topic area. Use this hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram.
  • Always give participants your program’s social media links and information for follow-up.

What are your thoughts? Any other suggestions for formal and informal learning environment tools that we can utilize in Extension?


One Video: Posted 5 Ways to Social Media

When we visited the NMSU Learning Games Lab in February, their team had some questions common questions about social media. They are working on refining their social media strategy and were curious about how they should tailor their messages to fit each social media platform (i.e. What a post on Facebook should look like compared to Twitter, Instagram, Google+, etc.) This is such a common question, we thought a blog post was in order!

Below is the “Don’t Wash Your Chicken!” video produced by NMSU that happened to go viral. We explain why under the video – but watch it first to see if you can take a guess:

NBC News

What’s your guess? Why did it go viral?

This video is short and to the point. The video above is a simple illustration of a viral video that gives the viewer educational, fact-based information. There are some great keys to the success of this video, and small snippet animation with it. First, the message is simple. Don’t wash your chicken! Next, the video is short, but NBC news shortened it even more. It shows the animation of the chicken and bacteria being spread as the person puts it under the running water.

No matter which social media tool you’re using, you want to make sure any video you share is short and sweet. With the creation of Vine and Instagram videos, people’s attention spans continue to decrease. Some topics warrant a longer video (say, a video on how to water bath can tomatoes, for instance). But most videos need to be less than two minutes, or you’ll lose your audience.

So, how would you go about posting this video to each social media site? Would the posts need to look different?

The answer is: it depends. 

Because this is a video, there are only so many different ways you can go about changing how you post it, but it is possible. Here are some examples:

Facebook: Keyword is VISUAL

Sample Post: Keep text short and simple. Copy and paste the link to the video, but then delete the link text. You want your post to be visual and attention-getting. You can also paste the YouTube video link to allow the video to automatically play when people come across it on their newsfeed.

chicken video FB

Twitter: Keyword is INFORMATION

Sample post: Twitter is all about information and informal learning. Again, keep your post short and simple (you only have 160 characters to fit it all in!). Use a link shortener to keep the link small, and include relevant hashtags that will help people find the video. Try not to include too many hashtags… for no other reason than it’s just annoying. (Note: we probably could have included the #NBC hashtag and/or @NBC Twitter handle in this Tweet as well!)

chicken video Twitter

Instagram: Keyword is PRETTY/CREATIVE

Sample post: Instagram works as an app on your mobile device, so you’ll need to download the app from iTunes (for Apple devices) or the Google Play store (for Android devices) first. Most Instagram users are using it personally, rather than professionally. Here, the example is from my personal Instagram account, but I’m sharing an Extension-produced message. I took a screenshot of the video with my phone, then chose a cool Instagram filter to apply to the picture. And just for fun, one of my favorite quotes about Instagram is: “People of Instagram: your pictures are not cool and you are not creative.” We may feel this way (I do), but if a large chunk of young people that we’re trying to reach are in this space, then we should try to experiment with sharing information in this space so we can meet people where they are at.

chicken video Instagram


Sample post: Google+ is a safe haven at the moment for techies and nerds who have lost interest in Facebook and Twitter. But that doesn’t mean that they’re the only people using it. As more people find out the cool user-friendly features of Google+, they’re realizing it’s a much more collaborative tool than any other social media platform out there. Sharing is key on Google+, so include the source of information and why you think it’s useful. Like Twitter, many people utilize Google+ as part of their personal learning network, so they look for information to learn from and share – not necessarily to just entertain themselves. A couple of cool features that only Google+ has: 1) It automatically picks out useful hashtags to add to your post and 2) You can create circles of people you follow, and then choose to share information with specific circles, 3) Google Hangouts… enough said.

chicken video Google+

Pinterest: Keyword is INSPIRING

Sample post: Pinterest works as a digital bulletin-board of sorts. After my husband and I bought our house back in 2008, I began taking pages out of my Grandma’s “This Old House” magazines and putting them into a binder for renovation and decorating ideas. With Pinterest, I don’t have to do this anymore. I can create my own digital “binder” of sorts, and create binders (or “boards”) for as many topics as I want! So in a Pinterest post, you would include a photo of the video (or other photos that are available via the link you’re sharing), along with a message about why it’s good to have this information or idea handy.

chicken video Pinterest

Keep an eye on Instagram and Google+. As Facebook continues to decrease how many people your page reaches “organically” (which just means, without paying for ads) more and more organizations (especially non-profit ones) are jumping ship or are spending more time experimenting with sharing information on other social media sites, such as Instagram and Google+. Amy Hayes presented a great session at NeXC on how to utilize Instagram – you may want to check it out.

Now – keep in mind that even though we’ve showed you how to share the same link on 5 different social media sites – that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be using all 5. It all depends on what your audience (the people you’re trying to reach) are using. For more information on how to find out which social media platforms would be beneficial for you, click here.

~Jamie & Heather

Key Take-aways from the NMSU Learning Games Lab

Our Ed Tech group recently traveled to the New Mexico State University Learning Games Lab in February. For those not familiar with NMSU’s Game Lab, they are 1654092_10100780964318436_94694068_naffiliated with NMSU’s Media Productions department and specialize in designing and evaluating educational tools with technology. You can see some of their work here which includes the “Eat-and-Move-O-Matic” National 4-H mobile app and “Don’t Wash Your Chicken!” video. While in Las Cruces, we toured their Game Lab and video production facilities, collaborated on how we can best work together on tech projects, and even created a decision tree to use when helping colleagues decide if they really “need” an app or they just “want” an app.

We’ve each listed below our top 5 take-aways from our short time visiting with the Game Lab director, Barbara Chamberlain (those in FCS have heard this name many times!), Jeanne Gleason, and the rest of the Game Lab’s staff.


  1. Processing Requests for App Development: Through this opportunity I was able to see the detailed process of app development from idea, to product. Coming to the table with a complete idea in hand is a nice starting point, but in turn we all must be willing to collaborate and build off of that idea to make it even better suited for Extension audiences.
  2. “The brain can only absorb what the butt will tolerate”: I found this to be a beautifully said direct quote from our collaboration sessions. The time we have as professionals to share information has grown smaller and smaller, while the need for sharing the message digitally has grown larger and larger. Making what we have to say compact, and creative is a task that the NMSU gaming lab has taken seriously, and done beautifully! There is a lot to be said for building animation, games, and apps that keep the attention of our audiences. In the past it was as long as 20 minutes, but today our viewers may only give us 2-3 minutes before we lose them.
  3. Atmosphere: The gaming lab is a good example of a creative, unique, and positive work environment. The spaces were open, the layouts blended from one person to the next, and the people were friendly, open, and constantly working together. While something we often do not think about, how we work together is as important as working together itself.
  4. Revisiting Objectives & Expectations: There is a constant need in any technology-based project to revisit the objectives, and the expectations of the client, or group. The reality is that we need to ask this question more often, and ensure that we are meeting both to the best ability we can. The NMSU gaming lab showed us how they communicate as teams, and work to give their best abilities to the group.


1970872_4016825997114_2063155192_n (1)

1. If you say “we need an app”, chances are, you really don’t. We spent hours one day mapping out and discussing the various steps to deciding and developing a mobile app. It’s quite a process. That’s not to say it’s worth throwing your hands up and giving up on the chances of ever creating something worth going mobile, because there are needs out there that can be filled by an app. Just know that there are many questions that have to be answered before need can even be assessed, layers of background information that has to be prepped, and months (if not years) of development plus testing that goes into every app. We’ll be sharing Dr. Chamberlain’s decision tree here on the blog soon, as well as information on how to work with an Ed Tech to go through the app development process. 

2. App development at the Learning Games Lab is different… in a very good way. They know Extension because they’re an integral part of the NMSU Extension system, so there’s little to no learning curve involved in trying to explain what we do and what it is we may want to accomplish by creating a digital product or tool. They also understand how imperative research and evaluation can be. So they do research to find missing pieces and information to make the app have the most impact. They also operate as a non-profit.

3. Fact sheets should be posted in an HTML format online instead of as a PDF. This was one of those light-bulb moments for me… as simple as this concept is, I hadn’t thought of posting them in an HTML format (similar to recent ChowLine and Family Fundamentals articles) before. But it makes perfect sense.

4. Even though we see them as leading the way in Extension technology, they say the same about us. They truly admire all of the strides OSUE has taken in regard to integrating and creating tech tools into our work here in Ohio. We spent quite a bit of time talking to them about our Ed Tech project, sharing examples of what we’ve done with social media around the state, and discussing projects that are in the works. We’ve agreed to help train them on social media strategy as part of our collaborative efforts together.

5. You won’t find a nicer group of people to work with. Seriously. Dr. Chamberlain and her staff were such wonderful hosts! So not only did we accomplish and learn a lot during the two short days we were in Las Cruces, but we had a lot of fun while doing it!



1. The NMSU Media Production Department structure was quite impressive. The back offices had key personnel responsible for navigating issues to effectively produce quality products by the most efficient methods available in areas of video production, social media, game development, and others.

2. The physical work environment even lends credence to promoting creative thinking using modern color schemes and treadmill desks as a physical activity outlet. When the treadmill desk is not enough to overcome stalled creativity, the team makes a trip to White Sands National Monument for sand sledding.

3. The group has a distinctive ability to problem solve. Sharing, they described how a room with a one-way viewing mirror was used for evaluating pilot games. They discovered that the mirror was not effective. The NMSU team mentioned that once the pilot game players became comfortable with the staff mingling, observing, and the team could get closer, more immediate feedback without the mirror. They even created a video recording booth so participants could record responses to their gaming experience. The group also shared that one project had an unexpected twist. A client wanted an educational learning game to address a weakness that needed to be resolved. In the process of assessing the project direction, NMSU found an underlying knowledge deficiency that directly related to the problem and focused on creating a platform to address all of the needs.

4. The NMSU Media Production Department leadership has an obvious appreciation and commitment to their staff. They maintain top-of-the-line equipment across focus areas for staff use in creating the innovative educational products clients request. If organizations with educational media requests want help, NMSU is very accommodating and will help clients with grant-writing needs and other task specific details if needed.

5. NMSU was very welcoming to our Ohio State University Extension Educational Technology team. They are very open to meeting groups that are interested in working with the NMSU team to produce educational media products. They invite potential collaborators and clients in for a tour of their facility–offering a warm welcome and real interaction with their inspiring group as well as a taste of the local Las Cruces culture.


1.  Attention Span:
When I started in Extension, I worked hard to create a solid 25-30 minute presentation for a youth audience so that I might get my topic across.


Times have changed and so must we as educators and be more creative in getting our topic across.  Today –  you may have at the most a 10 minute window to reach your audience. The NMSU’s Game Lab excels in researching who their target audience is and creating the best possible media source to reach their audience.

2.  Products of the NMSU’s Media Production Team:  The team shares knowledge through the  following types of products: Educational Videos, Educational Games, Web Sites and Mobile Apps.  I was particularly interested in learning more about their process for developing mobile apps and educational videos.

3.  Desktop Video Production:  Educators can create their own simple videos by starting out small.
Simple Video Studio:  lighting, sound, mics, there are simple methods that can be used for additional sound proofing, tripod, set furniture – go for solid colors that blend. Video Editing: The Ed Techs are putting together a basic Video Editing class and will share resources available to edit your video clips into a final product.

4.  Fun:  NMSU has a large team of people working together and we noticed that it’s in such a relaxed atmosphere.  Team members work well together and get along.  They incorporate “what’s new” into their work environment through the use of ergonomic equipment, exercise equipment and comfortable furniture.

5.  Grants and Partners:  The NMSU Media Production Department specializes in working with partners in grant writing and media projects.


More information and resources will be shared here on the blog and in-person as we work with individuals and teams as we begin to utilize this new, exciting partnership with NMSU! Contact one of the Ed Techs if you have an idea for an app, or just want to talk about what an app or gaming experience is. We’re here to help and to keep moving OSUE forward!


NEW Social Media Workshop Schedule for 2014!

We’ve experienced a lower-than-anticipated number of registrants per EERA so far this year with the social media workshops. So the Ed Tech team has decided to switch to a regional schedule for the remainder of 2014. This will come with the added benefit of reaching all 5 regions (central, north, south, east, west) by June! Plus, we have included a “2nd Chance” workshop on each topic in September for those who may not have had (or will have) a chance to attend one of the other workshops.

We’ve received great feedback from workshop participants so far this year. These are hands-on workshops and participants work through various steps/processes during the workshop with the Ed Techs, as well as assistance from CommTech specialists!

Please “save the date” for the workshop you plan to attend and let one of us know if you have any questions. (Click the image below to pull up a larger version.)

2014 SM workshops flyer_Final


Webinars as a Teaching Tool = A Top Priority for 2014

Last Fall when we asked everyone in the organization to tell us what they needed to know about social media via an online survey, an additional need was heard loud and clear. Many are ready (and waiting) for training on how to best use webinars as a teaching tool. We’ve used webinars as a self-ed and professional development tool, but now this informal learning format is also offering our clients a convenient way to educate themselves as well – and we all need to be providing them information with this method. Many businesses and even government agencies (the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative for example, are already using Google Hangouts to inform and educate the public.)

One of the focuses for our Ed Tech group for 2014 will be developing training opportunities on how to best teach via webinars. But first some decisions need to be made, including which webinar tools we should focus on for training. Initial thoughts from our group include:

  • Carmen Connect (we realize many are not comfortable using CC as a teaching tool yet)
  • Google Hangouts On Air
  • Adobe Connect via eXtension

We need to hear from you! If you’ve used or participated in educational webinars (think = for our audiences: farmers, parents, youth, etc.) what tools seemed to work best? Which didn’t? Which tools would you prefer to learn how to use? What suggestions do you have for how we can best use these tools? An online discussion here will help drive our decisions and planning as we move forward with this year’s trainings.

~The Ed Tech Team

Facebook Has Changed its Newsfeed Algorithm…. Again.

According to many sources, including this one, Facebook has once again kept everyone on their toes by changing how they determine which posts actually show up in a person’s newsfeed. But there is actually a silver lining in the changes for Extension folks – Facebook has declared they will give more “credible” and “high quality content” posts the upper hand; meaning posts linking to blog links or news articles will win the battle over silly memes and over-shared photos (“Back to the Future” date pic anyone?!?). We’ll have to see how this plays out, but I think it definitely could help our cause instead of hurting us. Although promoted posts (i.e. paid-for ads) will always appear in a newsfeed more than any other post… and this has many beginning to think that Facebook is morphing into a giant commercial (but that’s a discussion for another day.)

Facebookers still do have somewhat of a say in what shows up in their newsfeed… as long as they’re willing to take some extra steps. Individuals will need to go to their favorite pages and make sure a box marked “Follow” is checked.


This will ensure the page’s posts (most of them anyway) show up in the newsfeed on a routine basis. If you are an administrator of a Facebook page, you should let your followers know that these settings have changed and prompt them to take the extra step to “Follow” your page. Like the example from a National Weather Service page, below:

We’ll continue to keep an eye on the newsfeed algorithm and how it’s impacting posts. Until then, how you noticed a difference in how many people your posts are reaching? How have you circumvented this issue in the past?


Announcing Social Media Workshop Opportunities in 2014!

Based upon responses we received from over 300 people who completed the Social Media survey, the Ed Tech team in partnership with CommTech will be offering two different social media workshops in each EERA next year! See the flyer image below for dates and locations. This is the same flyer that was given out during Annual Conference last week. Some details are still being pulled together, but look for the first registration e-mail for the January workshops later this week. We’ll also post registration information here on the EdgeU Tech blog.

Click the link below to view and print a PDF version of the flyer:

2014 Social Media workshops flyer



Ed Tech in Action with the Live Healthy, Live Well Team

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to attend a Live Healthy, Live Well program team meeting. This FCS group has done a wonderful job of including technology and social
media into their program – and it’s now an OSUE Signature Program. Live Healthy, Live Well is a nutrition challenge during which participants receive e-mail newsletters, and follow the program’s blog and Facebook page. Both the blog and Facebook page are updated regularly, even outside of the program’s challenge dates, which helps to drive more potential participants to the program’s information.

During this meeting I shared and discussed the following resources with the team:

Time was also spent discussing their current format for the Live Healthy, Live Well e-mail newsletters, which they felt were in need of an upgrade. I shared a couple examples with the team (see the OSU Buckeyes image below – screen captured from their Facebook page).

Of course, Live Healthy, Live Well digital newsletters won’t be sharing the same information as the OSU football Facebook page. So we chatted about how we could transform the e-newsletters become a bit more visual and not as information-dense while still getting needed info to participants. The key here can be links, links, and more links – all complimented by a very visual template. This also will drive more traffic to their blog and Facebook page, which is a goal they’ve decided needs to be part of their overall social media strategy. E-newsletters are beginning to look more and more like a page in a magazine as the appeal of seeing information in visual form and in short snippets crosses over from Facebook (see other examples below).

As a result of the meeting, the Live Healthy, Live Well team is considering experimenting with paid promotions on their Facebook page to reach more potential program participants. I’ll also be working closely with them to communicate how they can best show and report their impact via the technological components of the program (in RiV in particular) – which is an issue we’ve been struggling with in Extension for years. This will be a major focus of our next Ed Tech meeting this Wednesday and we hope to have this information posted and ready for the organization in December – just in time for all the RiV procrastinators out there! (I can say this because I’m one of them.)

In the meantime, please consider inviting an Ed Tech (or more than one…) to an upcoming project or program team meeting to help your group think through some of the issues, concerns, ideas, and aspirations of technology use in Extension. We are here to help. I feel that in just the past few short months, we’ve already gained a lot of ground.



Social Media: Who is Using What?

As a follow-up to my post on the POST method of strategically planning tech or social media integration, I wanted to share a recently discovered Pew Research Center articl

The landscape of social media userse on a study they published nearly a year ago. Yeah, even Ed Techs can be behind the 8 ball… or behind the “Pew” in this case. In the study, they depicted which demographics were using which social media tool, an invaluable resource for anyone looking to firm up their social media strategy. See the full report of the Demographics of Social Media use here.

Items worth noting for Extension:

    • The majority of social media users are still on Facebook.
    • The majority of those using Twitter are between the ages of 18-29.
    • 15% of social media users are on Pinterest, and most of them are women.
    • Only 13% of social media users are using Instagram, and they’re in the same age range as Twitter users

So how can you use this info as an Extension professional? After you decide who your target audience is going to be for any social media endeavor, use this study’s results to
see what social media sites your demographic is using. If you’re targeting males, you are not going to want to use Pinterest – but depending upon the age range,

Twitter might be a good choice. It also matters what they’re using these sites for. Pinterest is a wonderful tool to share recipes and home decorating ideas, but it is not a good place to house helpful links (you’re better off having a website or webpage for that purpose).

The image at the left has made it’s way around the inter-webs over the past few years and is a good tool to use when thinking about how different social media sites are utilized by their users and how you would post information on a specific topic to each site.

What social media sites have you been actively using? What has been working for you, or what do you feel isn’t working?



How to use the POST method to determine which technologies and social media tools to include in your programmatic efforts.

I went through several different versions of a title for this blog post, and that was the best I could come up with. At any rate, we Ed Techs have been very busy working with program teams and curriculum development committees to assist in helping them determine which technology tools or social media sites would be most beneficial to include in their programmatic efforts. This is a bit of a switch from our usual “mode of operation” when it comes to tech inclusion in Extension programming. Our way of thinking for many years has been to grab a hold of the technology first, and then figure out how we’re going to actually use it… or if it’s worth using at all. One of our goals as Ed Techs over the next year is to work with Extension folks to rework and rethink this trend. By thinking strategically about how tech can be most effectively integrated into Extension programming, we will achieve much greater results. The POST method is a great tool for such planning. It’s broken down below:

  • P – “People”: assess your customer or audience’s social activities. What are they using? Are they on Facebook? Or are they on Instagram? Would they appreciate the
    inclusion of a Wordle on your promo items for a program, or not really?
  • O – “Objectives”: decide what you want to accomplish. What are your goals for the curriculum, program, activity, etc? What do you want to accomplish by using technology as a part of your efforts?
  • S – “Strategy”: plan for relationship-building. Currently, relationships can be created online and then enriched in-person. What tech or social media tools would help you build relationships in an online or hybrid environment.
  • T – “Technology”: this is your end point after working through the above steps. End with the technology piece; try not to be tempted to start with it! (Even though that can be difficult sometimes!)

For those interested, there is a more in-depth explanation of POST here. (It’s an interesting read if you have 5 minutes to spare.)

As we continue our work over the next few months, you’ll continue to hear about this method. Have you used the POST method before in program planning? What has been your experience with it? What benefits could you see from Extension professionals using this method as part of their program planning?