Information related competencies for Montana Extension Service professionals

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Agriculture


The purpose of the study was to determine the information-related competencies and training needed by Montana Extension Service professionals to acquire and disseminate information to clients electronically. A descriptive study was planned based on a design described by Borg and Gall (1989). The intention was to perform a needs assessment that describes the current situation and to determine differences that answer the objectives of the study. The population was stratified by Montana Extension professionals and consisted of administrators, specialists, and agents. An email survey, prepared in part using the Total Design Method (Dillman, 1978), was used as the data collection instrument. Thirty seven competencies were identified and set up as a needs assessment model (Borich, 1980). A pilot study was used to validate and test the instrument. Assurance of the needed sample size was provided through two follow-up email messages to non-respondents. The double dip technique was employed to assure non-respondents were no different than respondents. Responses to questions were analyzed by a personal computer statistical package. T-tests or analysis of variances were run on the data at the 0.05 level of significance. The analyses of the data were used to determine any differences among selected demographic features and to rank order the competencies based upon the respondents perceived level of importance and knowledge. The study's results were also used to determine learning and training preferences related to information technologies. The data from this study reveal several factors which are impacting the use of information technologies by agents and specialists. Competencies with a positive weighted discrepancy score need to be taught. Selected demographic factors and other characteristics showed no influence on the competencies because both of the stratums need further education in information-related competencies. Different training sessions need to be developed for each stratum because of the reported difference in the ranked competencies, preferred instructional method, and training preferences. A lack of equipment, the cost of long distance telephone calls, or the secretary given the responsibility to do email limits the efforts of MES professionals in using electronic information technologies.




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