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Technology Trade-Offs in Agribusiness Distance Education

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Pp. 534-539 in Proceedings of the World Congress of Computers in Agriculture and Natural Resources (13-15, March 2002, Iguacu Falls, Brazil)  701P0301.(doi:10.13031/2013.8377)
Authors:   Suzanne Thornsbury and Wendy Griffin
Keywords:   Computer teaching and training, information delivery system

There is growing demand among non-traditional students for agribusiness higher education at multiple levels (undergraduate, graduate, and continuing certification). Advances in technology have allowed land-grant universities to service these needs through a growing number of mediums. In 1998 University of Florida/IFAS established a teaching program 200 miles from the main campus that offers live instruction leading to B.S. degrees in Food and Resource Economics (agribusiness specialization) and Horticultural Sciences. This same program is evolving into a hub for technology-delivered distance education in agribusiness.

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate alternative technologies for agribusiness distance education with respect to infrastructure needs, faculty development, course delivery, and student needs and development. Three specific technologies are discussed (interactive video conferencing, world wide web, and video tape). Results indicate that, not surprisingly, the technology is advancing faster than individual and institutional abilities to adapt and a mixed medium can potentially offer a smoother transition. There is a continuum of preferences for technology methods among faculty and students, although these are not always consistent. Faculty tend to view videotape, interactive video conferencing, and Internet modes of delivering as requiring increasingly steep learning curves and length of preparation. From the students perspective; video conferencing, videotape, and Internet modes of delivery require increasing levels of adoption from traditional learning styles. Delivery via Internet, videotape, and video conferencing are increasingly restrictive in reaching the growing audience and increasing costly from an institutional perspective. Mixed mediums are often the best option as they allow all groups more time to adopt and smooth the transition to technology based agribusiness education.

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