Information Newsroom

Communication & Engagement Manager – Request for Applications

We’re searching for a Communications Manager!
Join our virtual team from any location
March 1, 2018, first round of application reviews

Communications and Engagement Manager
eXtension and NPSEC Partnership

national pesticide safety education center logoCommunication and engagement with the Cooperative Extension Service and other eXtension partners across the nation is critical to eXtension viability and future.  It is imperative the eXtension stay in touch with the people eXtension serves. eXtension is known for cutting-edge technological leadership over the past several years and now for our Impact Collaborative that is supported by innovation, collaboration, and evaluation.  The Impact Collaborative is creating measurable and visible impact at the local level through various strategies, to include Designathons One and Two.

Strategic engagement efforts and marketing are critical to the continued success of eXtension for programming, messaging, marketing, development of appropriate products, as well as continuing to keep the website up to date with information on the opportunities within eXtension.  eXtension will work collaboratively with NPSEC (National Pesticide Safety Education Center) in the support and guidance of this position.  NPSEC has similar needs for efforts from this position in the areas of strategic messaging, targeted communications, including on social media, marketing, and website maintenance.

The Communications and Engagement Manager will lead in the following areas for both eXtension and NPSEC:

  • Strategic Messaging
  • Marketing for Program Sharing, Fundraising, and Revenue Generating
  • Social Media
  • Website Management
  • Engagement with the Impact Collaborative to develop and sustain a supportive of innovative, engaged extension professionals
  • Graphics and Communications
  • Effective Communication and Engagement Strategies


Pesticide Safety Education Programs, State Lead Agencies, Federal Government and others to be identified

For eXtension:

ECOP (Extension Committee on Policy); NEDA (National Extension Directors Association), USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), State Extension Directors, Regional Extension Directors, some funders, and others to be identified.


  • Bacherlor’s degree in journalism or communications.  Master’s preferred.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of communications strategies, marketing packages and reach and ability to write with clarity in a fast-changing environment.
  • Knowledge of or experience in the Cooperative Extension, the audiences they serve and how this higher educational process works.
  • Knowledge of communication systems, including experience with graphics, social media, written media, fliers, brochures and ability to create communication pieces that convey the messages with clarity.
  • Knowledge and experience with managing networks and engaging them in co-creative efforts.
  • Personal computer skills required.
  • Experience in effectively working with and managing several projects at once and working with a virtual team across the country.

Specific Tasks and Responsibilities

  • Develop communications and marketing strategy and tactics with leadership team
  • Implement the communication and marketing strategy, tactics, objectives and plans.
  • Develop graphics and communications pieces to highlight the Impact Collaborative and eXtension
  • Work  with all facets of eXtension and NPSEC to develop marketing pieces and develop strategies for social media
  • Provide proactive communications and recommendations to solve communication needs as they arise
  • Write and produce documents for the eXtension membership campaign, eXtension Board, and NPSEC
  • Review, strategize and implement a social media plan for increased communications and marketing for both eXtension and NPSEC
  • Keep an updated database of new Extension Directors/Administrators for eXtension and state/territory/tribal Pesticide Safety Education extension staff for NPSEC
  • Keeps subscriber lists up to date
  • Writes posts/emails, a monthly “round-up” about the highlights of activities connected with eXtension and weekly ECOP Monday Minute items to distribute to the ECOP Executive Director.
  • Ensures that posts about upcoming events (webinars, online courses, etc.) and professional development hosted by eXtension.  Will require writing.
  • Update the content on the eXtension and NPSEC websites, including authoring new content, and creating new navigation as needed for both eXtension and NPSEC.
  • Review google analytics and take steps to optimize the user experience.
  • Work with the evaluation team to identify key data and successes for sharing on the website, written communications, and slide decks.
  • When practical, travel to eXtension and NPSEC face to face events and obtain photos, video, interviews, and other material needed to support communication and impact reporting and make sure others are capturing appropriate content as needed.
  • Provide leadership for developing a shared message and voice among eXtension staff and leadership team relative to programs, processes, and initiatives of the foundation
  • Author messaging for member institutions and keep them informed of the accomplishments of their faculty/staff relative to eXtension programs.

This is a 1.0 FTE  contracted position or University buy-out with .7 funded by eXtension and .3 funded by NPSEC. This position will be for one year, with a possible renewal for an additional year with satisfactory work and appropriate funding. This is not an employee position. The position reports to the eXtension Chief Operating Officer and National Pesticide Safety Education Center Executive Director.

First round application review will be March 1, 2018.  The position will be advertised until the position is filled.

How to Apply

Please send your letter of interest and your resume to by March 1 for first round reviews.  For more information on the position contact:

Dr. Beverly Coberly
Chief Operation Officer
eXtension Foundation


Tom Smith
Executive Director
National Pesticide Safety Education Center (NPSEC)


Karen Vines Named 2018 NAEPSDP/eXtension Fellow

Karen VinesAs Cooperative Extension is increasingly being asked to co-create solutions with partners and communities we serve, it requires a different approach in program planning.  Karen Vines, Virginia Tech, has been selected as the  2018 NAEPSDP/eXtension program design/development fellow. Karen will serve as a key informant for the 2018 Impact Collaborative in program development and will focus on helping extension professionals use engagement in their program planning.

Karen is an assistant professor and continuing professional education specialist with a split teaching and Extension appointment in the Agricultural, Leadership, and Community Education department at Virginia Tech. Karen teaches the introduction to Cooperative Extension class and the online graduate nonformal teaching and learning course. She also provides professional development workshops on program planning to agents in Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Karen’s dissertation completed in 2017 focused on increased use of engaged program delivery models in Cooperative Extension. Through her research, she confirmed that in order to increase engagement in Cooperative Extension we need to think differently about how we develop and implement programming.

Karen has served in extension roles in four different systems, University of Kentucky, Purdue, Penn State, and Virginia Tech. During her career, she has been active in both the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA) and Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) with responsibility in both organizations for program development associated with their professional conferences. She has also chaired an emerging issues subcommittee for the ESP professional development committee which developed one of the early webinar series and provided both an invited presentation on mobile technologies and served as a representative of NACAA and ESP, chairing the poster and workshop sessions at Galaxy IV.

I am interested in using this program design/development fellowship to share and learn from others about how program design and development must change as Extension remains relevant for the future.

Dr. Vines can be contacted at

Diversity & Inclusion Fellowships Information NAEPSDP

Are you evaluating your program? Ask the stakeholders!

Julie Huetteman, Ph.D., is the Strategic Initiatives Coordinator at Purdue Extension. She is serving as the National Association of Extension Program and Staff Development Professionals (NAEPSDP) eXtension Fellow for 2017.

My role as 2017 eXtension NAEPSDP Fellow for Program Evaluation was launched with the Diversity and Inclusion Issue Corps (now called the Impact Collaborative) in Cincinnati. Since then, I have attended online sessions for those projects to share progress, challenges, and accomplishments. In addition, I have been included on the Corps evaluation team to learn of feedback from project teams.

A theme in this feedback was “stakeholder” involvement expressed as 1) key to their program goals; 2) instrumental to providing external input, perspective and support for their program; and 3) important in their next steps to move forward in their program planning, implementation and evaluation efforts.

In my online interactions with project teams, I found myself repeating, “Have you asked them?” I reminded many to “keep asking questions” of their stakeholders, audience, participants, and attendees to connect to those perspectives, interests, and insights.

We don’t have to have all the answers. Instead, consider asking questions of stakeholders to get those answers.

In education, the “expert” typically shares information or content. But do we know what is of interest to attendees? Do stakeholders understand what is being shared? Is the program of value to participants? How did the audience benefit from taking part in activities? Here is the break: We don’t have to have all the answers. Instead, consider asking questions of stakeholders to get those answers.

A lot is involved in planning, implementing, evaluating and reporting Extension programs, and we want to do the best we can. So, consider asking questions throughout and use feedback to inform your decisions.

  • Are you planning activities that encourage attendees to be active, involved and engaged? Check on current research for best practices, then ask the intended audience: “What activities would you find interesting to do?”
  • When deciding which topics are most important, check the literature, then ask a couple representatives of your future audience: “What topics are important to you?”
  • While planning the evaluation, check on practice guidelines, then ask stakeholders: “What questions might be asked to find out the value of this program?” Alternately, give them draft questions and ask: “Which ones work well to capture the value of the program for you?” followed by “How might you state a question to ask about its benefit to participants?”
  • In your outline or curriculum, schedule specific activities to involve and engage participants like asking verbal questions, posting polls, sharing questions on a slide, and so on. Some examples: “Is there anything that you need to be clarified?” “Was this activity helpful?” “What was most valuable to you?” Also: Keep questions going throughout; don’t wait until the end of the program to ask.

Avoid packing your program with so much content that you forget about — or don’t leave time or space for — getting to know the audience.

Ask your audience to 1) help clarify your planning efforts, 2) give feedback during your implementation, and 3) craft questions for debriefing, or 4) review and express the evaluation results. Avoid packing your program with so much content that you forget about — or don’t leave time or space for — getting to know the audience. Include questions to get their ideas on, the perceived value from, and experience of the program. Key questions to get started might be: “Has the program met your needs?” “Is this activity/program of value to you?” “Is this of interest to you?” “What is important to you?” “How have you benefited from this presentation/program?”

Ask questions, then listen. Audience responses and feedback can guide your next steps for planning and evaluation. Make time to get to know, and connect with, the audience by asking about their thoughts or perceptions. Ask your audience – before, during and after your program – so that their perspective is the focus of your planning, activities, and evaluation.

Julie can be contacted at

Design Extension i-Three Corps

i-Three Issue Corps – 10 Keys to Developing Engaging Online Extension Courses

binoculars-on-a-ledgeHave you ever taken an online course?  Was it required or for fun?  What was your motivation?  Semester-long, short course, less than a week?  For a fee or free?  Did you complete it?  Was it a good experience or more like how NOT to teach online?

From your experience, think about three things that make an online course good and three things that make an online course bad.  Was it easier to come up with three bad examples?

The keys to a good online course boil down to engagement.  So, what does it mean to be engaging?  Definitions include, “very attractive or pleasing in a way that holds your attention,” “tending to draw favorable attention or interest,” and “to occupy the attention or efforts of a person or persons.”  Synonyms include absorb, engross, interest, and involve.

I am currently developing an online course in Urban Food Production for backyard and community gardeners in Eastern Nebraska as part of the i-Three Issue Corps and want to make sure that my course is engaging so that learners have a good experience.  Here are ten suggestions you too can use to make your online Extension courses more engaging.

  1. Use Good Design Principles & Make the Learning Environment Visually Appealing

Another word for engaging is attractive.  Have you ever visited a website and immediately left because it looked and felt outdated or awkward?  Think about the first impression of your online course from the learners’ point of view.  Are they going to want to stick around?

While your creativity might be limited by the learning management system supported by your university, here are a few best practices to follow to make your course attractive to all learners:

  • choose simple backgrounds and fonts
  • choose fonts, font sizes, and colors for readability and accessibility
  • close caption all audio and video components or provide scripts
  • keep the screen clear of clutter (if an image has nothing to do with the lesson, skip it)
  • maintain a clear, organized structure to optimize navigation throughout the course
  • make sure all pages and linked documents are free of distracting typos and grammatical errors
  1. Develop an Engaging Getting Started Module & Syllabus with Clear Objectives and Expectations

Teaching a successful online course means being clear about where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.  Learners want to have confidence in our leadership and their ability to achieve their goals.  This starts with the syllabus and introductory course information.  If learners are lost and frustrated from the beginning, they’re less likely to complete a course, especially if it’s not mandatory.

  1. Be Present & Responsive

That brings me to my next point, be present and responsive.  Learners need to know that there is a real person (or persons) behind a course.  Introduce yourself in the Getting Started section of the course with a photo or video.  Tell them a little about your background, your hobbies, why you’re passionate about this course.

Devote time each day to respond to emails and calls.  Nothing is more frustrating for an online learner than to have technical issues or questions about content and have to wait a week (or more!) to receive a response.  With high enrollment courses, especially those with mandatory enrollment, you may want to hire someone to handle this day-to-day management.  If this is not possible, post an FAQ with troubleshooting techniques and offer your help via a weekly Zoom session.

If your course includes a discussion forum, act as a facilitator (the guide on the side rather than the sage on the stage) by commenting and asking questions to keep the conversation going and make it a true learning experience for all participants.

  1. Make it Media-Rich

Boredom and distraction are engagement’s worst enemies.  Use pictures, charts, infographics, animations, audio, and video to give learners multiple ways to interact with the course content.  If they wanted to just read text they could visit a webpage or pick up a book.

  1. Utilize Guest Speakers

As Extension Educators we’re used to public speaking and we know how to put together a presentation.  But Extension is a team and no one is an expert in every topic, so we should invite colleagues to contribute to our courses when appropriate, if for no other reason than to save learners from listening to the same voice in every module.  This also introduces course participants to other experts in the area that they can contact with questions, follow on social media, or to get involved in applied research.  Another way to accomplish this is by inviting guest moderators in a discussion forum (e.g. if you have an Master Gardener, intern, or technician that is particularly knowledgeable about a topic but not comfortable being recorded).

  1. Make it Relevant

Adult learners are busy and if they’re going to devote their precious time to something, they want to know why it’s important and how it relates to them.  We can accomplish this by tying course content to real-life applications and benefits (how it will save them time or money, how it will give them the vocabulary to talk to buyers and customers, etc.).

One way to make course content relevant to participants is by giving them some autonomy in how they complete course requirements.  For example, we can require completion of a certain number of modules, but let participants choose which modules they complete.  Or we can give research/writing assignments that participants can tailor to their individual situation and interests (e.g. it is more valuable to let a prospective orchardist write a paper on orchard management than on meat production, though both topics may be taught in an organic food production course).

  1. Chunk Information

Chunking information into easily digested pieces shows that you respect that your learners’ time and attention are limited.  Small bits of information are easier to process, comprehend, and retain.  This builds confidence and motivation.  If a learner knows that each learning resource will take no more than 15 minutes to complete, they’ll be more likely to squeeze one in during a lunch break or before bed.

  1. Challenge with Puzzles

Utilize crossword puzzles, flash cards, fill-in-the-blank, drag-and-drop labels on a figure, true/false, matching, multiple choice questions, etc. for learners to self-check their comprehension throughout the course.  Come up with problem-solving exercises, internet scavenger hunts, and case studies that require participants to look for and find solutions.  These activities may be required before learners are allowed to move on to the next module.  They make the content interactive and reinforce comprehension of the material.  This will help them quickly identify content areas they need to devote additional attention to and give them confidence going in to any major assessments.

  1. Tap into Emotion

If participants feel emotionally connected to the subject matter, then they are more likely to be engaged, absorbing the content and applying it to their situation.  Use the personal experience and goals of your course participants as a resource.  Ask them to reflect on periods of their childhood or experiences in the workplace.  Incorporate realistic and timely stories and news articles that they can relate to.  Utilize scenarios and exercises that introduce conflict and dilemma to force participants to consider how they would react in a given situation.

  1. Grow Community through Social Media

Social media is a powerful tool for collaboration and sharing.  The social media strategy for your course may rest on the discussion forum included in your learning management system or take on a life outside of the formal course through a participant-contributed blog, Pinterest board, or group Facebook page.  Posting photos, experiences, and found resources related to what they’re learning in the course will foster learner interaction with the content, the instructor, and peers, and ultimately enrich the experience for all participants.  And sharing their wins/failures as they try to apply that information to their daily lives allows participants to encourage, commiserate with, and help each other, truly forming a community.  Plus, you can then use information and photos from their posts to report course impact.

Binoculars photo source: