Date of Graduation

8-2014

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Agricultural & Extension Education (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology

Advisor

Leslie Edgar

Committee Member

Terry Kirkpatrick

Second Committee Member

Donna Graham

Third Committee Member

Catherine Shoulders

Keywords

Cooperative Extension Service, Needs Assessment, Nematology, Nematology Education

Abstract

County extension agents are vital to the land-grant university system and are responsible for transferring current, research-based knowledge from the university to the community. In-service training allows agents the means to maintain a current, sound knowledge base. Needs identified by leading nematologists led the researcher of this study to assess if nematology education was a topic that warranted in-service training development for Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service (CES) agents. The researcher also assessed agents' comfort level with job related technology. Of the respondents, 67% identified general knowledge of plant parasitic nematodes necessary to meet the needs of their clientele. Findings from the needs assessment indicated agents had a high level of comfort with job related technologies, and had some need for training in nematology topics to better assist their clientele. Along with budgetary and staff constraints, respondents' self-assessed comfort and interest level with technology was deemed sufficient to warrant development of an online in-service training opportunity that was implemented as a pilot study. Pilot study participants were purposively selected extension agents and research support staff in the Arkansas CES Delta District. Three online nematology modules were developed and administered to participants to assess the effectiveness of the modules as a training tool. Mean pretest (M= 84.97, SD = 11.55) and posttest (M = 94.39, SD = 6.07) scores collected during the pilot study showed a significant increase in participants' nematology knowledge gained after instruction from the modules. Participant responses from pre- and posttest surveys showed an increase in participants' comfort level with some nematology topics after instruction. Additionally, participants of the pilot study found the modules to be an effective method of presenting information and learning. It is recommended that for future research practices that materials are tested with groups that are not agriculturally literate to further assess the utility and effectiveness of the pilot study materials. Materials should also be retested in a more controlled setting to determine if the knowledge change was due to treatments, or external factors. Additionally, it is recommended that materials, such as the educational modules developed in this study, be available to the general public.

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