A Needs Assessment of Aquaculture Extension Agents, Specialists, and Program Administrators in Extension Programming
Schwarz, Michael Hans
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The purpose of this study was to identify continuing education and training needs of aquaculture Extension agents, specialists, and program administrators on the list serve AQUA-EXT. Ten competency areas were evaluated regarding perceived importance, and need for continuing education or training. In addition, 14 resources on the Aquaculture Network Information Center (AquaNIC) website were evaluated from this population for frequency of use and recommended improvements. Lastly, demographic data were collected to determine possible relationships to continuing education and training needs. The survey population was the AQUA-EXT list serve membership (N = 223), of which 174 responded. AQUA-EXT is a Web based mail group established by the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service as a means of disseminating information to the Extension community with work and interest in aquaculture. Data were collected with an online survey conducted via the interactive and encrypted Web site www.survey.vt.edu. Upon completion, data were exported into, and analyzed via the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). A majority of Extension agents, specialists, and program administrators did not require significant continuing education or training to accomplish their work effectively. However, general agreement among the three groups was for continuing education in the areas of program evaluation, information technologies, and human development. Regarding the AquaNIC website, 52% of Extension agents, 71% of specialists, and 81% of program administrators reported having used AquaNIC, however, use was infrequent. Recommendations to enhance Web site utility focused on requests to update and incorporate more comprehensive and in-depth information for all resource areas. Demographics indicated that mean ages for Extension agents, specialists, and program administrators were 47.9, 50.5, and 51.5 years respectively. Sixty three percent of agents indicated having master's degrees, and 63% and 72% respectively of specialists and program administrators indicated having doctorates. Means for years in their present position were 13.4, 13.2, and 8.4 years respectively for Extension agents, specialists, and program administrators, and 16.6, 16.1, and 15.5 respectively regarding total years in Cooperative Extension or Sea Grant. No statistical relationships between demographics and continuing education and training needs for Extension specialists, specialists, and program administrators were found.
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