ALABAMA A&M UNIVERSITY, Ala.—For more than a decade, businesses and individuals have been shifting to digital platforms for communication and sharing information. Like many organizations, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System has adapted communication channels. It’s true that COVID-19 pushed the national Cooperative Extension System to break tradition in reaching its clients. In order to keep up with current stakeholder needs, Alabama Extension expanded online outreach and increased productivity using every available technology. In fact, many organizations in America improved their online presence and learned how to better engage consumers who are spending more time at home.
According to Statisica, consumers are indeed accessing the Internet now more than ever. Nearly 49 percent of consumers spent more time accessing social media, while 53 percent streamed more videos. Alabama Extension at Alabama A&M University has also experienced an increase in social media activity. Facebook page views and post reach, for example, are up by more than 40 percent from mid-March to May 2020.
While webinars and Zoom meetings are nothing new to Alabama Extension, what is new is that more and more staff stepped out of their comfort zones to use other resources to reach clients.
“Subject matter experts, known as specialists, have led their program teams to produce more online educational and interactive products,” said assistant director Kimberly Sinclair-Holmes. “Our teams not only rose to the challenge, they developed resources that address immediate and critical needs of communities across the state,” she said.
Meeting Client Needs
New products included informational articles on critical topics such as dealing with unexpected job loss, webinars delivered via Zoom and Facebook Live, short instructional videos and interactive indoor and outdoor games. Products are available for online users of all ages, including older adults. Alabama Extension is taking extra steps to engage more with existing and new online users. The Alabama Extension website also has the capability to translate information into more than 60 languages and to address the needs of individuals with disabilities.
While no one knows what the future holds after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, what is certain is that Alabama Extension will deliver much more than traditional in-class sessions and live field day demonstrations. It will expand its seat at the table using digital technology to capture the minds of online users that access the internet from homes around the world.