Date of Award

12-2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Natural Resources

Major Professor

George M. Hopper

Committee Members

Wayne K. Clatterbuck, Timothy Cross, J. Larry Wilson, Julie K. Little

Abstract

As the traditional forestry Extension clientele in Tennessee changes, Extension professionals need to adapt and deliver programs in such a way as to reach the maximum audience while ensuring the educational benefit of the program and remaining within budget. The development of the Internet and associated web-based programs presents a new tool by which Extension professionals can develop and deliver educational programs to clientele.

This study compared two Extension program delivery methods, web-based and traditional field-based. A series of field workshops were held and participants were surveyed. From these field workshops, a web-based program was developed and was marketed to a similar audience; these participants were also surveyed. Demographic information, learning preferences, and other measures of program preference were collected.

Ninety-seven percent of participants in the field-based program and 68% of the web-based sample preferred a field program over a web-based program. If only a web-based program was made available to participants, at least 50% of each sample would be interested.

Educational level was the only demographic characteristic that was significantly different between those who chose a web-based program and those who chose a field-based program. Participants with higher educational levels were more likely to choose a web-based program. Educational level was positively correlated with income level, computer ownership, and Internet access. Educational level was negatively correlated with age.

Knowledge gain was significantly higher in the field-based sample. Web-based participants showed average knowledge gain of 12.2 to 28.7% whereas the knowledge gain for people attending the traditional field day program averaged 16.5 to 46.1%.

Level of computer ownership was high in both samples as was the use of the computer on a regular basis. Internet access was high in both groups. The web-based sample had significantly higher levels of high-speed access. Those with high-speed connections were more likely to choose a web-based program, although both groups used the computer/Internet regularly for gathering information.

Current forestry Extension clientele preferred a field-based program delivery method. Some clientele, though, preferred web-based programming and these types of programs should be offered when suitable. Using a variety of delivery methods, Extension can adapt programs to a wide range of learning styles to reach new audiences, including younger generations who are more comfortable with Internet learning.

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