CES a Distance Education Model?
One might think that CES is a unified system, but in fact each of the 75 institutions lead and manage their own programs and funding for each of these Cooperative Extension Services comes from federal, state and local governments.
National ties are with USDA-NIFA and the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) which serves the governing committee for the CES. Also, eXtension provides a national online presence for Cooperative Extension.
To answer your question, I don’t believe that CES is a distance education model because there is no national system that directs and manages standard programming for Cooperative Extension. Most Extension programming is still conducted locally, attempting to meet local needs. Some local Extension Services are using online courses, webinars, and other online applications to conduct or supplement Extension programs.
There are some “distance” models arising because of partnerships with other agencies and organizations. EDEN http://www.extension.org/pages/13405/the-extension-disaster-education-network-community#.VF-fJlPF8dI is an example.
Another example is the DoD and USDA Military-Extension partnership http://www.csrees.usda.gov/newsroom/news/2011news/04271_military_families.html . There are several Extension models that have formed as the result of this DoD and USDA partnership.
In particular, eXtension’s Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) provides professional development for those in DoD, branch services and others who serve military families. Most of the professional development is conducted through webinars. There are few courses offered in eXtension’s Campus (Moodle – a learning platform). The MFLN also provides opportunities for military service professionals and Cooperative Extension professionals to connect and learn through social media channels.
I am wondering though, if the next question is: Could CES provide a distance education model? Certainly, MFLN is one type of example and thus I believe CES could provide a distance education model.
But a more important question is: Should CES provide a distance education model? Is there a priority for creating formal learning systems (distance education courses) or is there a priority for creating more free flowing informal learning systems?
I really appreciate your question and hopefully you and others will continue the discussion by replying here.