#nexconf Presentations: Directions for Improving Wyoming Extension Online Courses

#nexconf Presentations: Directions for Improving Wyoming Extension Online Courses

Course completions for TAMUAs I mentioned in a previous post, I had a rewarding time while at the National Extension Conference. Three of the sessions I attended focused on building and delivering online courses. Basically, I was looking for ideas to make this a reality in the University of Wyoming Extension program.

Presentations viewed

Here are the presentations I attend along with more information about those sessions:

Here is what I walked away with:


Online courses are typically built when there needs to be consistency in the delivery of instruction, when the course is taught multiple times, and when detailed records should be maintained.

Courses can be created in multiple languages. Texas A&M Agrilife Extension has created courses in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

Online courses can incorporate text, audio, video, and animation. Online courses can also incorporate a myriad of interactive engagement techniques.

As Penn State Extension reports, course instructors/creators can receive an email when individuals complete a course. Additionally, they can send course completion reports to state government and other agencies as needed.

Course completion requirements can be very exacting as reported by all presenters. If participants do not pass a quiz, for example, they can be required to complete another quiz.

Once training is complete, individuals can automatically receive a completion certificate or digital badge.

Volume of Success

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension provided some impressive numbers. They are delivering 170 courses on subject matters to include child care, health, nutrition, food safety, home based business, housing and environment, career, and technology education. They have 196,000 users. Since 2009, over 461,000 courses have been completed with 188,000 courses completed in 2013.

TAMU Completion Stats

According to Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, online course completions are significantly outpacing face-to-face courses.  Here is an example of the difference.

TAMU Course completion chart

Methods of delivery

Penn State Extension builds its courses using Articulate software. Articulate served their needs by being interactive, having a quiz feature, and easy to learn.  and hosts the courses on Campus.extension.org. Campus.extension.org is a Moodle learning management system platform.

Because Texas A&M Agrilife Extension could not find a learning management system that met their needs, they built their own system.

Certificates and Badges

Larry Lippke reported out on the activities on campus.extension.org.  He focused on recognizing online learning by specifically discussing certificates and badges.

Larry Lippke showing certificates
Larry Lippke showing certificates


Lippke explained that certificates were issued for 163 courses. Since 2008, 35,300 certificates have been issued.

As mentioned earlier, certificates and badges can be issued for a number of different course completion requirements. These requirements can include:

  • None
  • Minutes
  • Grades
  • Activity completion
  • Time Window

Certificates can include date, unique code, grade, credit hours, instructor name, logo, and signature image.


Badges used in Moodle are based on the Mozilla Open Badge system. Badges are represented by a digital image and include metadata such as name, description, issuer, expiration date, criteria, evidence, and tags.

Badges can be displayed on the user profile or be sent to the user’s Mozilla backpack.

Next steps

Presently, University of Wyoming Extension has a Moodle presence. I would like to start delivering more courses, courses that are supported by certificates and badges. In my trip report, I indicated that will be reaching out to program leaders who develop curriculum for pesticides, 4-H, food safety courses as means of getting started.

Anyone else using online courses? What success are you having?

2 thoughts on “#nexconf Presentations: Directions for Improving Wyoming Extension Online Courses”

  1. Great post, Stan. We’ve been having conversations in Ohio for years about what direction we should be heading in when it comes to online “courses” being offered by Extension. I think Moodles are great for 4-H volunteer orientations and trainings, and I created a couple myself back in 2008 that worked rather well. Moodles are also good for pesticide certification, etc. However, when it comes to more programmatic topics (Say, for example, Ohio’s “Dining with Diabetes” program, informal learning works better than a more formal “course”. We had a group of DWD Educators who worked on a Moodle for the program for a couple YEARS (against my advice) and are struggling to get people to participate once it was finally up and running. Unless it’s required or mandatory, people just aren’t going to be interested. They’d rather search to learn via Google or a social media platform. iTunes U is another option in addition to Moodle if you really want something that looks more like a “course” and less like an informal learning experience.

    1. Thanks for responding. You are correct, it is a matter of finding the right tool for the job. As Penn State and Texas A&M have discovered, online courses can serve an important need. High demand courses are one example, e.g., food safety, pesticides, sewer certification, etc. You are right, mandatory courses do get more activity.

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