eXtension Tools and Services Update for Communities of Practice and Learning Networks

eXtension’s tools and services are expanding! The following update was recently delivered to our Community Management Board and although this message is a bit longer than usual, I hope you will take the time to read it in its entirety. There are some great enhancements for Communities of Practice and Learning Networks!

CMB TOOLS & SERVICES NEEDS
Last fall, through an online survey and a follow-up Community Management Board (CMB) online meeting, eXtension received input about communities’ needs and uses of eXtension’s existing tools and services. This feedback led to a discussion during a late November CMB meeting that further informed the earlier responses and provided eXtension with valuable direction to better serve communities in the future.

By combining responses from the pre-survey with those collected during our meetings we learned that communities expressed their three most important needs from eXtension as support for marketing (95%), funding (95%) and the ability to promote webinars in Learn (65%).

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The following is a full breakout of how our tools and services ranked among community leaders.

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NEWLY AVAILABLE TOOLS & SERVICES

Communities of Practice and Learning Networks have available the tools and services you have come to rely on and can now request the use of new assets that eXtension has made available.

Zoom: We now have an eXtension Zoom Webinar room to host presentations for up to 500 participants. This can be scheduled by CoPs and LNs and used when offering webinars in Learn.

Basecamp: A project management and collaboration tool called Basecamp is available to CoPs and LNs for use with your next big project. This may be especially helpful when addressing key issues, determine impact goals and exploring innovations to achieve them.

Catalog: Just launched is eXtension’s new Catalog which serves as a storefront or clearinghouse of educational offerings available through Extension. This site is connected closely to Campus to facilitate the seamless sale of online courses using various pricing models including the use of discount codes, bulk seat purchases, bundled courses, and invoicing. Free courses, as well as courses located on other platforms can be listed, as can fee-based or free webinars, workshops, and eBooks. Free webinars in which the presenter would like to supplement the webinar with additional resources, forums, chat rooms, feedback surveys, certification, badges, or other educational reinforcement measures can also be accommodated.

Learn more about the new Catalog by joining our Orientation on eXtension’s Catalog tomorrow, Wednesday, March 9 at 11 am EST.

eXtension’s IMMEDIATE RESPONSE TO CoP NEEDS: PILOT PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT INITIATIVE ON MARKETING

In reviewing this data on communities’ usage of eXtension’s tools and services, coupled with their desire for marketing and funding to be supported, eXtension launched a pilot with six community leaders to try out and evaluate the possible value of a social marketing professional development resource called Platform University. The intent of this pilot was to determine if Platform University, a subscription service, might be an appropriate and useful professional development tool that eXtension could offer to all communities. The goal was to learn whether Platform University could provide communities with greater insight on content marketing for their eXtension content and their work in Cooperative Extension. The pilot learning cohort assessed how effectively Platform University could help communities improve their communication, social media and marketing skills.

Beginning in November 2015, this cohort conducted a careful assessment of Platform University’s approach, content and learning resources. In January, the cohort reported on their review, determining that the vast majority of the lesson takeaways could be garnered and curated through other free resources. Therefore, the subscription to this service was discontinued for participants at the end of February, 2016.

REVEALING A BEST KEPT SECRET

The eXtension Educational Technology Learning Network (EdTechLN) provides marketing resources to eXtension, their members and communities. They have created a Social Media Strategy Portal on the EdTechLN blog. In addition they have curated a variety of resources that support Digital Scholarship, e-Learning, Promotion and Tenure/Evaluation, and much more on their Scholarship page.

The EdTechLN educates with examples of how to successfully integrate technology into actual Extension practice and encourages communications and marketing conversations in a variety of ways including their Blog, regular TweetUps, and Webinars. Additionally, you can follow the conversation of the #EdTechLn on FaceBook and Google+.

A recent example is the Tweetup around content strategy for digital publishing.

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In addition to encouraging communities to explore more deeply the resources and engagement benefits of #EdTechLN, eXtension is exploring ways to support communities with on-target resources for marketing to help communities raise the visibility of their efforts and help make them more competitive for various opportunities for funding.

The pilot learning cohort felt strongly that, in order to leverage good marketing into viable funding streams, communities need to consider heightening their development of their entrepreneurial edge. Communities might consider looking at themselves as similar to startup enterprises, placing their funding goals and strategies at the same level of importance as outcomes and impact for learners. Better marketing can position communities to achieve better funding and learning outcomes. Taking a look at a community with a startup mentality can lead to a shift and rebalancing of effort that may produce desirable new insights into communications strategies and planning.

Read more about how this fits in Extension at one of #EdTechLN’s recent posts, How Extension Can Think Like an Entrepreneur.

MARKETING SERVICE PILOT INITIATED FOR CONTENT

A new pilot is being initiated with the Land Use Planning Community of Practice to use an external marketing service to support the community’s efforts with their citizen planner content. The citizen planner content provides a narrow topic for focus and testing of these marketing services through December 2016. If these efforts are successful we will consider bringing these marketing services to communities in 2017.

HOW CAN WE BE MORE ENTREPRENEURIAL?

eXtension welcomes your thoughts and ideas on how communities can become more entrepreneurial with marketing content. How can we help you take the great works Communities of Practice and Learning Networks have developed and convert that effort into sustainable dollars that help you continue to engage and produce impactful content for your audiences?

We know Communities of Practice and Learning Networks desire better marketing and funding. Let’s explore together, more ways you can position your efforts for greater funding growth.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

We invite you to jump in our eXtension Google Doc on how CoPs and LNs can be more entrepreneurial and share your thoughts. This is an editable Google Document, please login using your eXtension ID and Password. Please take a few moments to add your thoughts, comments and ideas.

And Stay tuned for more information about how eXtension is exploring new thinking and resources for marketing and funding strategies for review, and if acceptable, then use by communities. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions or need assistance.

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