As I am writing this, many OSU Extension county offices and combined Research and Extension Centers have entered initial phases of resumption after several months of being closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While many of us are looking forward to a “return to normal”, we know it will take a long time, and even then it’s very likely that things will never truly go back to the way they were before.

I want to take this chance to look back on some resources that were created to support OSU Extension faculty and staff during the pandemic and remind us of how these resources can continue to benefit us going forward. The past few months have been tough for many of us, but it’s good to remember that the work we did then was not only valuable at the time, but will remain valuable into the future.

Virtual Extension Resources

Shortly after we received the announcement that Extension Offices would be closed to public visits, a team comprised of members from Extension Communications, ECTU, and PACE began work on creating and collecting Virtual Extension resources for faculty and staff. These resources are intended to provide guidance around delivering Extension programming remotely. These resources continue to be updated, and the Virtual Extension team is still available to answer questions, talk through issues, or take suggestions regarding remote program delivery.

Since they were launched, these resources have received more than 9,000 pageviews. The most popular resources have been:

  1. Video and Multimedia Recommendations
  2. Video and multimedia for social media, web and more
  3. General program delivery considerations (accessibility, civil rights, security and privacy)
  4. Live online, interactive consulting to a larger group
  5. Real-time or recorded online ‘lecture’

Keep these resources in mind as you provide remote programming or use a mixed modality approach. Some of our case studies show that remote delivery has increased the reach of programming beyond what was expected in “normal circumstances,” so also consider continuing to provide remote offerings even when programming can be fully in-person. In the spirit of inclusion, think about what audiences are excluded when they are required to travel and gather in-person to receive our programming, as well as those who are excluded by requiring the tech and ability to receive programming virtually.

Professional development webinar series

To complement the online Virtual Extension resources, the VE team organized a series of Professional Development and Connection webinars for OSU Extension faculty and staff. These have included presentations from VE team members as well as faculty  and staff from throughout the organization. Topics have varied from Zoom and other software tutorials, to social media and marketing strategies, to Spanish language instruction!

Recordings of all presentations are available online. Definitely check them out if you get the chance. If you would like to present a session or have a suggestion of a session you would like to see, get in touch with Victor Villegas.

As part of this series, Extension leadership has also launched two recurring opportunities for conversation and connection with Extension faculty and staff and leadership: Water Cooler Wednesdays and Ask Anita. These sessions continue to occur regularly. 

Public online resources related to Coronavirus and COVID-19

In addition to the COVID-19 resources for faculty and staff, OSU Extension has produced a multitude of resources for Oregonians about staying healthy and taking care of themselves, their families and their communities. Thanks to the content management system that powers the Extension website, these resources were entered quickly and automatically collected on our Coronavirus (COVID-19) topic page. This page has been viewed over 850 times since it was published. Just a small sample of this content includes:

It also includes links to a number of credible sources of information about COVID-19 (including OHA, CDC and WHO) in order to combat common myths about the virus that have popped up in our communities.

In addition to addressing the needs of Oregonians related to physical, mental and community health, OSU Extension also worked to provide resources to parents and other educators who needed to quickly change their methods of child care and education as schools closed. Resources created by faculty and staff from a variety of program areas and resources were collected in a “Youth education resources” topic page. Since March, this page has received 1,034 pageviews.

While these resources have been particularly relevant in the face of COVID-19, the topics they cover have always been and will continue to be important. Consider exploring these pages (or other topic pages) to see what resources may be related to your work now or going forward.

Innovative web and digital strategies

The work described above has led to connections and collaboration that didn’t exist before the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the Youth Portal mentioned in the previous section involved input, coordination and effort from team members from 4-H, Extension Family and Community Health, Oregon Open Campus, Outdoor School, Oregon Sea Grant, Extension Communications, and others. A subset of this group has agreed to work together in maintaining this topic page going forward.

Additionally, work on Virtual Extension resources has provided extra opportunities for collaboration between Extension Communications, ECTU, and PACE. Through these collaborations, we have been able to refine Extension’s strategy around content and event promotion through social media and newsletters. We have also launched a pilot of “Opt-In Forms” for topic pages, which allow visitors to tell us about their interest in a topic in order to receive a newsletter or other specially delivered content. 

The Coronavirus situation has also given us reason to utilize features of the Extension website that facilitate strategically “broadcasting” or pushing out content to many places with minimal effort on the part of most content authors. These strategies have included the following:

  • To provide website visitors with locally relevant information about COVID-19 and Extension’s status, two focus area templates were pushed out to all counties: Online resources and activities and County COVID-19 resources. These are able to pull in resources mentioned in the previous section while providing local context. Combined, these focus areas have received more than 500 pageviews.
  • We also pushed announcements out to counties as they enter different resumption phases (default/phase 1, phase 2). In total these announcements have been viewed nearly 1,800 times. These both point back to the page describing OSU Extension’s resumption status and plan, which has been viewed over 2,000 times.
  • Extension Communications has been continuously publishing news stories that highlight the impactful work Extension has been doing throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Through tagging, these stories automatically show up on topic and county pages where they are relevant. 
    • Please share these news stories on social media and in newsletters too — use the content bank to get the link, photo and teaser to share.

Special thanks

We would like to thank the following people, who have been particularly active in both using the website and taking the time to learn and think strategically about the most effective ways they can use the Extension website.

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