The Texas AgriLife Extension Service and you as a county Extension agent places a great deal of time and resources in planning and establishing effective programs. It is no doubt that planning is a critical component of Texas AgriLife Extension Service’s educational programs. As we move forward as a organization during times of limited resources, we must be very efficient in the use of available resources and time. In today’s economic climate, program planning must be focused on ensuring that Extension is efficiently allocating resources which results in the following:
• Program excellence which is focused on clientele needs and issues.
• Educational programs which result in measurable outcomes.
• More efficient use of agents’ time.
One of the methods which will increase our efficiency in program planning is the use of the Microsoft Lync software. Lync is a very robust software platform which incorporates voice communications, instant messaging, audio, video and web conferencing. You can use this distance education and communication tool to add value to program planning activities by employing video conferencing capabilities which are collaborative, engaging, and cost effective.
Microsoft Lync can provide the following benefits for Extension:
• Control costs – District Extension Administrators/County Extension Directors , Regional Program Directors and agents can effectively communicate among geographically dispersed County and District offices without long distance charges. Integrated audio, video, and Web conferencing will reduce travel costs, as well as the cost of third-party teleconferencing fees.
• Improve productivity- Applications available with Lync assists District Extension Administrators/County Extension Directors, Regional Program Directors and Agents communicate within a more productive format. Instead of e-mailing documents back and forth for approval, middle managers and agents can rely on real-time collaboration through desktop applications such as sharing documents, plans, and PowerPoint presentations and use of a virtual whiteboard.
• Gain operational efficiencies -By integrating Lync into program planning and conferencing, delays can be reduced or eliminated. For geographically dispersed county and district offices, group chat can enable efficient, topic-specific, multi-county discussions which save time and money.
• Enables Extension to be more responsive to clientele – By reducing the number of face to face meetings which require travel time, agents will have more time in the county to respond to clientele needs and to conduct educational programs.
Lync offers many opportunities to improve efficiencies and you are encouraged to use Lync for planning meetings, multi-county cluster meetings, involving specialists in program area committee meetings, collaborations to develop educational materials, etc. I am planning to use Lync with District Committee Meetings, Program Planning Conferences, individual agent conferences, etc. It is imperative that you embrace this technology and use it to enhance your efficiencies and effectiveness.
Posted by: Dale A. Fritz, Ph.D., District Extension Administrator