Poster: Making Extension content more discoverable (download for full res)
Making Extension content more discoverable: Evalua7ng examples from a forestry websiteEli Sagor 1 and Philip Potyondy2. 1University of Minnesota Extension and 2Department of Forest ResourcesIntroduc7on Oak wilt status widget Flickr photos Social media tools Monthly email update Online content, discoverability, and behaviorOne of Extension’s most important roles is to make complex, research‐ What: A graphic “widget” showing the What: Flickr is a free third‐party photo What: A suite of communication tools What: An HTML‐formatted email sent to Transformative learning requires many things. Information of the type based information more accessible to individuals who can use that current risk status for oak wilt, a serious sharing service. including Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook. subscribers monthly. found on MyMinnesotaWoods and its derivative channels (e.g. Twitter, information to better their lives. Increasingly, our audiences are using disease of Minnesota oaks. The widget How it works: We upload photos to How it works: When we publish new How it works: We pay about $250/yr to Facebook, and RSS feeds) is but one. can be added to any website. When we Flickr. Search engine users @ind them and, content, it’s automatically shared via Constant Contact. Constant Contact digital media to @ind and exchange information. update the risk status, the widget by reading descriptions, learn to Twitter. We manually share content via manages our 1600‐recipient email While social psychologists would point out that information alone is The recent proliferation of new digital communication tools creates instantly updates, wherever it’s interpret them. Facebook. database and provides a relatively simple unlikely to foster behavior change, the site can nonetheless play a key new opportunities for Extension professionals to make our content deployed. Why: We take a lot of photos. Flickr Why: Automation means that after the interface in which to enter content. role in landowner learning. more discoverable to people who need it, when they need it. How it works: We provide HTML code allows the public to see, and learn from, initial setup, this takes very little time or Why: Email remains a preferred mode of to call a linked image on our server. The The site may promote positive land stewardship outcomes in two The purpose of this poster is to offer insights from one Extension what we see. effort. The bene@it is that it makes content communication for many members of our code is installed on partners’ sites. important ways: Evaluation: However, Sagor’s Minnesota visible through more networks and target audience. Sending the email program that has made heavy use of digital communication Clicking the image (“widget”) takes the forestry photos have been viewed about channels. reminds interested readers that our site 1) By making information more easily discovered, when it’s needed, by technologies to increase content discoverability. The poster is designed user to the detailed oak wilt status page is there, delivering content rather than 200,000 times. Uploading the photos to Evaluation: These channels account for those already motivated to take action. to illustrate some techniques to increase content discoverability online, on MyMinnesotaWoods. making them come to us. Flickr and adding tags required little only a few percent of referrals to and provide insight on returns, for one Extension project. Why: The widget helps our partners 2) By raising awareness of Extension as a valuable, credible resource extra work (photos need to be organized MyMinnesotaWoods. Because so few of Evaluation: Each update is opened make research‐based risk status data anyway). Allowing the public to see our target audience use social media to about 1300 times by 1000 or so different for times when land stewardship decisions need to be made. By While we do not have impact evaluation data at this point, the data available. It also draws new users to them makes them far more discoverable. obtain forestry information, it’s become a people. In the week following delivering content to interested users on a regular basis, we’re able to presented here do offer useful insight into returns on investments Extension content. One possible goal would be to increase low priority for us. distribution of the monthly email update, remind people that we exist, increasing the likelihood that when they made to deploy a variety of online communication tools. Evaluation: The widget accounts for the referral rate from Flickr to our site. 35‐50% of site visits are referrals from need information or assistance, they will come back to Extension. 61% of all views of the oak wilt status the email. On the day the email is sent, 3) By promoting Extension forestry offerings like face‐to‐face page. Of these viewers, 45% go on to the percentage is much higher (Figure 1).Why “discoverability?” view other content, suggesting that the workshops that offer opportunities for high‐touch learning, In addition, Constant Contact analytics relationship building, and deeper learning to occur. While not necessarily an end in itself, making content more widget promotes content site‐wide. tell us what content our email recipients discoverable makes it more likely that the content will @ind its way into actually read. We can use this data to plan future content online as well as in other the hands of a focused, interested learner. This, in turn, increases the Costschance that research‐based information will be applied, and will make Discussion board delivery formats. This provides What: An open forum to post questions invaluable, near‐continuous content‐a difference in real peoples’ lives. All of the tools described here are free with the exception of Constant and share experiences. related feedback from our subscribers. Contact. We pay $252/yr for a Constant Contact subscription with up How it works: After a simple to 2500 subscribers. About MyMinnesotaWoods registration process, users can post text, photos, and links to the discussion board. The far greater cost is the time required to maintain these tools and the Http://www.MyMinnesotaWoods.umn.edu (MyMinnesotaWoods) is a content behind them. We estimate that site and content management Why: Replying to a question on the website developed and maintained by the University of Minnesota discussion board takes about as long as take 15‐25% of one Extension educator’s time. An undergraduate Extension Forestry team, which is part of Extension’s Center for Food, replying to a question by email. But an student puts in an additional 5 hours per week, primarily organizing Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences. email is read by one person, while and formatting content in preparation for publication. content on the discussion board is viewed Initial development of the MyMinnesotaWoods site cost about $8,000.The site’s purpose is to make research‐based information on the care by hundreds or thousands. While we can and management of Minnesota’s trees and woodlands accessible to the always choose to reply privately to owners and managers of those resources. The site is a hub, or an index, questions, the discussion board gives us a to the many offerings of our Extension forestry team. popular platform to exchange SummaryAmong other things, MyMinnesotaWoods is a sandbox in which to try information with interested members of Fig. 1: MyMinnesotaWoods daily pageview data, The recent proliferation of digital communication tools has given new approaches to online outreach. The site is designed to add value to our audience in a public setting. March‐July 2010. Monthly spikes correspond with Extension professionals a much larger toolkit. Many of these low‐cost our many other content offerings: workshops, publications, community Discussions add value to the site by email update send dates. tools have potential to make Extension content more accessible to building processes, and more. helping users apply the content to their situations. The registration process target audiences. This, in turn, increases the chance that research‐ builds connections with motivated users. based information will be applied, and will make a difference. News headlines Evaluation: The discussion board is the MyMinnesotaWoods is, in many ways, a sandbox in which innovative third most popular page on What: A listing of relevant news articles from a variety of media sources. communication tools are tested. Returns on the time invested have MyMinnesotaWoods, surpassed only by Slideshare Events calendar been variable, but generally positive. Differences in target audience, the home page and our property tax What: A free platform to share How: We @ind news items using various What: A Google calendar that’s public aggregators. We then use Delicious.com educational objectives, program structures, and technical pro@iciency content. slideshows with or without audio. and easily embedded on any website. to “tag” selected items with a unique will affect the value of any communication tool to a given Extension How it works: We upload content to How it works: We add events and allow code. Tagged items then automatically team. Slideshare, then embed it on our site. select partners to add and manage theirs. appear on our site. They are also RSS feeds Why: Slideshare has two important The calendar can be embedded on any automatically published via our Twitter What: Subscribers are noti@ied every bene@its over Adobe Presenter: Detailed site, adding visibility to our (and their) stream. time new content is published. analytics and the ability to embed events. For more informa7on Why: Though we focus on Extension How it works: We use Feedburner, content rather than taking users away Why: Google calendar is a simple system, content, this feature allows us to easily from the site to view it. Eli Sagor3, firstname.lastname@example.org or (612) 624‐6948 which allows subscription via email or making it easy to manage permissions and “curate” content from other sources. Our RSS reader. Feeds also allow partners to content sharing. University of Minnesota Extension, St Paul Evaluation: Top Slideshare content is vision is for MyMinnesotaWoods to be publish our headlines on their sites. viewed over 1,000 times per year. A high Philip Potyondy, email@example.com Evaluation: The calendar is one of the the primary source for Minnesota Why: Feeds allow subscribers to choose percentage of those views happen on most popular features on the site. We University of Minnesota Department of Forest Resources, St Paul forestry information. Adding news from their preferred format rather than forcing Slideshare.com, suggesting that users are know events account for about 15% of a variety of sources helps position us to MyMinnesotaWoods: http://www.MyMinnesotaWoods.umn.edu. them to conform to ours. discovering the content independent of clicks in our monthly email updates. do that. Links to all tools described in this poster are available from the site. Evaluation: Feeds currently account for MyMinnesotaWoods. On several However, we’re unable to track calendar Evaluation: Over two years beginning in a small volume of traf@ic: about 1% over occasions, Slideshare content has been views, links followed, or most other Download this poster: http://z.umn.edu/MMWposter Spring 2007, news links accounted for the past year. We see feeds as a tool with requested by high school and university metrics. fully 20% of the clicks in our monthly great growth potential. instructors for use in their classes. email updates. Our readers like news. 3 Corresponding author
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