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Online program metrics and evaluation for FMNP and NATA

Citation

Main, Martin; Holly, Ober; Johnson, Shelly (2021), Online program metrics and evaluation for FMNP and NATA, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.kd51c5b43

Abstract

Restrictions on public gatherings in early 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in cancellation of in-person outreach programs offered by the Florida Master Naturalist Program and Natural Areas Training Academy, two successful University of Florida extension programs that provide natural history and resource management training to lay and professional audiences.  In response, both programs rapidly transitioned to blended or 100% online educational methods to continue offering courses and maintain program operations. To assess participant responses to these changes, we used surveys and course registry data to evaluate and compare course enrollment, satisfaction, and outcomes among courses with new online formats to courses offered prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also examined logistical challenges and key programmatic elements that facilitated the transition of both programs to increased reliance on online education. Course participants responded favorably to classes offered online. Our results revealed an audience exists for online programming, that satisfaction with online courses was high and comparable to that measured for in-person courses, and that online approaches effectively transferred knowledge and promoted behavior change in participants. The transition to online programming required investments of time, energy, and in some cases, direct costs. However, this transition was greatly facilitated by the existence of well-defined program protocols, educational curricula, strong partnerships, and feedback mechanisms for both programs. Long-term investments in program structure, partnerships, and support systems enabled both programs to be resilient and adaptable and successfully implement online programming in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods

We used program surveys and course registry data to evaluate and compare course enrollment, satisfaction, and outcomes among FMNP and NATA course participants for courses offered prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (pre-COVID period, 2019 and earlier) and during the early COVID period  (March 16 through June 30, 2020) when in-person events were prohibited (IRB protocols #202001365 and #201800987). Our questions of interest were whether there were differences between the pre-COVID and early COVID periods in (1) participants who enrolled in courses, (2) participant satisfaction with courses, and (3) outcomes of courses. We also evaluated our experiences related to logistical challenges and identified key programmatic elements we found helpful for adapting FMNP and NATA training courses to include increased levels of online delivery.

Usage Notes

See README file

Funding

USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act, Award: 1000606