New Generation of Home Canners Learn Online through Preserve @ Home

Idaho Extension educators are seeing a new generation of home canners who are inexperienced and may not be trained in safe home food preservation techniques. At the same time, only one in three Idaho Extension offices have an FCS educator who is knowledgeable in food safety and home food preservation techniques. Often one educator covers multiple counties with limited resources. Other states are experiencing similar changes.

Canning

In 2004 a team of University of Idaho Extension and campus faculty, led by Carol Hampton, Boundary County FCS educator, adapted the researched-based University of Idaho/Washington State University Food Safety Advisor Volunteer Handbook into a web-based course, Preserve @ Home. Since that first offering Hampton, Laura Sant and Joey Peutz, Idaho Extension educators, have partnered with Extension educators in Deschutes and Tillamook Counties in Oregon, Boulder County in Colorado and Washington State University Extension to educate more than 430 people in the U.S. and internationally. Local educators enhance the Preserve @ Home experience with a hands-on lab or instructors connect students to their local Extension office.

In 2012 the course was moved to campus.eXtension.org to take advantage of the technical support offered by eXtension’s Moodle instructional designers. The course was redesigned to make it more user friendly and increase student satisfaction.

The program goal is to reach and educate individuals on food safety and food preservation while limiting geographical barriers. Preserve @ Home’s six week program includes: lessons, National Center for Home Food Preservation’s So Easy to Preserve videos, weekly student discussion board and real-time chat, quizzes, final exam and evaluation survey to collect impact data.

Students are required to cite their quiz answer source which exposes them to a large number of research-based Extension publications and web sites. It is the philosophy of the instructors that it is more important to know where to find an answer than it is to think you know the answer and share incorrect or outdated information. On average 75 percent of students regularly participate in the discussion board and weekly chat. Many students stay in touch after the course and use instructors as continuing resources for questions or personal preserving successes.

Students have evaluated the course with comments including “Thank you for all the work you’ve put into this class. It’s been exactly what I’ve wanted since I started canning”; “I learned a lot and feel much more confident in knowing the correct way to preserve food.”; and “I have learned so much and really feel prepared to evaluate the safety of recipes and methods of home preservation in my own kitchen”.

One significant advantage to the eXtension online course is the ability of Extension educators from different counties or states to teach cooperatively. Instructors can access the classroom from any location with internet.

Preserve @ Home is a fee based course, but if you would like guest access to view it, would like to offer the course in your state or have questions, contact Carol Hampton at champton@uidaho.edu. For information about how Moodle might contribute to your educational efforts, contact the eXtension Moodle help desk at moodlehelp@extension.org.

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