Ney, Laura Caitlin
Offering Free, Monthly programming Virtually
Online programming can improve access to educational resources and increase impact by eliminating barriers, such as access to transportation, need for child care, health concerns, time constraints and limited mobility
COVID19 has disrupted many of the typical pathways that Extension uses to reach its clients. For years, the Athens-Clarke County Extension office has offered free and public monthly programming on seasonal, gardening-related topics. This program made information on beginning gardening and improving gardening practices available to hundreds of Clarke County residents, each year. Beginning in March of 2020, this in person program format was no longer possible, due to the safety risk of in person gatherings during COVID-19.
Athens - Clarke County Extension re-structured the monthly gardening programming (now called Green Thumb Lectures) into online programs, offered via Zoom. The online Green Thumb Lectures were recorded and made available on the UGA Extension YouTube channel. Between the live, online presentations and the YouTube views, Athens-Clarke County Extension presented programming to over 1,700 members of the public (417 viewing live and 1,317 viewing on YouTube), in the six months following COVID19 safety restrictions. A combination of presenter practice sessions, controlled audience participation and the addition of moderators, who help facilitate audience questions, resulted in a maintained level of excellent program quality. Seventy-five percent of surveyed participants reported an excellent overall experience. Multiple participants even expressed a desire for Green Thumb Lectures to continue to be offered online, after it becomes safe to meet in person again.
Implementing a virtual version of the Green Thumb Lectures allowed the Athens-Clarke County Extension office to continue equipping the greater Athens community with knowledge and resources to begin gardening and improve gardening practices during COVID19, and also made this programming accessible to additional individuals. The online Green Thumb Lectures had six times the reach of the Green Thumb Lectures that were offered, in-person, in the six months preceding COVID19. In Surveys, Seventy-three percent of participants said that the Green Thumb Lectures provided educational gardening programming that would otherwise have been inaccessible to them, for reasons such as “children at home” “work schedule” “difficulty traveling” and “social distancing”. Over half of the Green Thumb Lecture participants stated that they were very likely to begin gardening/landscaping practices or to modify their current gardening/landscaping practices based on information from the classes. Based on the reported likeliness of the classes to affect participant behavior and the increase in audience numbers, over 1,000 people will increase or improve gardening practices such as vegetable gardening, composting, promotion of pollinators and beneficial insects, water-wise landscaping, or begin beekeeping, in response to the online Green Thumb Lectures, presented since COVID19 restrictions began.
- Year: 2020
- Geographic Scope: Multi-County
- County: Clarke
- Location: College Station, Athens
- Agriculture & Natural Resources