The University of Connecticut Extension is now offering its education program course list online, as part of an initiative to offer more online resources for those interested in taking classes through extension, said agriculture program specialist Stacey Stearns.
“We have courses for everyone,” Stearns said. “We have a lot of demand. We’re trying to make it easier for people who don’t know about extension to find a program that will be useful to them in an easy-to-facilitate manner.”
The extension, which is part of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR), has been offering classes to the general public for over 100 years, Stearns said, and offers over 100 courses in food safety, CPR, gardening and other topics to the general public. In addition, specialized courses are offered to youth groups such as 4-H for training purposes, Stearns said.
“Our job, and the land grant mission, has always been to take the research of the university to the public. We have so many different programs,” Stearns said. “Extension…evolves to meet the needs of our audience.”
The courses, which are taught by extension faculty and staff, are offered in every town in Connecticut, Stearns said, with some offering over 22 courses throughout the year. Certain courses are seasonal, Steans said, in order to accommodate their target audiences. Classes aimed towards greenhouse managers and farmers, for example, are offered during the late fall and winter, when it isn’t the growing season, Stearns said.
“We work with the best times for our target audience,” she said.
The new web catalogue is a part of this accommodation, Stearns said, as well as the increased number of webinar (online portions) of the classes offered. The master gardener program, for example, which offers courses on gardening and landscaping, has several online portions, which make it more available to people who may not be able to attend a class in person, such as full-time workers or stay-at-home parents, Stearns said.
“These (courses) are open to any of our audiences,” Stearns said. “We’re really trying to reach our new audiences. As Millennials become farmers, they have different ways of communicating. There’s so many demands people’s on time now that we’re looking at other ways that people can utilize our information.”
Several courses use mixed media, offering an online section followed up by an in-person section, Stearns said, which has contributed to the growing number of people enrolled in the programs.
“We are reaching more and more people every year,” Stearns said. “Our Invasive Plant Program alone reached over 39,460 people (last year).
Over 400,000 people enrolled in courses last year, according to the extension website. Many of the courses are free to attend, while others require a fee to enroll in, Stearns said, which helps cover the cost of the course.
Approximately $7 million annually is spent on extension programs and personnel, said CAHNR Associate Dean Michael O’Neill. The online catalogue will make the programs more available to the general public, O’Neill said.
“(The programs) help grow extension knowledge,” O’Neill said. “Part of our goal is to have programs that make sense to the public. For us, we’ve tried to have a greater online presence.”
O’Neill said that he hopes people will take advantage of the courses extension offers.
“We want citizens to have a lifetime of learning,” O’Neill said. “If (everyone) considers themselves a lifetime learner, then they can take the information we have and put it to use in their lives.”
Marlese Lessing is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. She tweets @marlese_lessing.