Compelling evidence has been found demonstrating the value of an online learning network in field crop diseases. eXtensionAUS facilitates a collaborative community working together in the area of field crop diseases. The community is supported by the use of evolving online tools which enables quality content development and dissemination, responding to emerging issues using the latest knowledge to engage online with the Australian grains industry.
The eXtensionAUS Field Crop Disease Community of Practice (CoP) includes over 50 members from across Australia from state based departments, universities and private industry. The eXtensionAUS initiative, including a Crop Nutrition CoP, has reached over 18000 users since its inception, with one Facebook post reaching 12,000 people alone.
The eXtensionAUS project has found that a collaborative learning network which informs a suite of online extension activities has proved to be both innovative and effective in reaching end users. This coordinated approach to publishing new content or curating existing resources can be proactive and reactive, reaching people on any internet device, at any time. Online mechanisms also allow communication to be two-way, providing informal surveillance through social media monitoring and engagement. The suite of tools used includes web-based articles, video, social media, Slideshare and curation tools such as Storify and Paper.li.
Evaluation has found the most valuable aspects of participating in eXtensionAUS for community members to be: expanded professional networks (72%); learning to work in new ways online (70%); learning new technical information (75%) and increasing reach to clients (54%).
eXtensionAUS is a GRDC funded project, supported by Agriculture Victoria and DPI NSW. eXtensionAUS is also working closely with RIRDC to make this way of working available to other rural industries.