I am very happy to introduce to you our newest team member, Alison Holland! Alison is the new Extension Academic Technologist. She is experienced, knowledgeable, super easy to work with, and a great addition to the Extension team. I know she will be working with many of you in short order!
The Academic Technologist is responsible for promoting and supporting academic technologies for teaching and learning by Extension faculty and staff. 
Now let's get to know the newest member of the Extension Technology team!

What is your experience with Extension?
I grew up in Mora -- a rural county seat -- and our County Extension Educators were visible, valuable community leaders in many capacities, and important role models for me.  I was also a 4-Her from grade K through age 19!  My experiences in State 4-H made a huge impact on my life and I’m incredibly grateful to the staff here who made it possible.  Later I spent a summer at the (now closed) Regional Extension Office in Mora as an intern, and loved it so much I’ve kept my eye out for a right-fit “real job” with Extension ever since.  While recently working under the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) for a short time, Extension Educators and Faculty were a significant resource for my regional team, which only renewed my interest in working for Extension.

How did you come to be in this field?
By accident!  I discovered my love for education through dance – my love for educational technology while working in healthcare career promotion at a technical college – and got to bring them together as a Teaching Artist for the Cowles Center’s Distance Learning program.  At the same time, I was also facilitating projects for the Minnesota Partnership for Collaborative Curriculum and became very interested in making the designing and developing of tech-enhanced education opportunities my primary focus.
I love this work because I value interdisciplinary collaboration and enjoy creative problem-solving.  I’m forward-thinking and want to learn and grow every day.  It’s been an organic and winding career path, and I’ve developed the skills and gained the experience that got me here by asking questions, expressing interest and support, offering my time, and not being afraid to try new things.

What's a favorite academic tech project you've worked on?
Ah!  This is the most difficult question -- like choosing your favorite child!  None is perfect, and each has its own strengths, challenges, and lessons.  If I must choose, I’ll say Health Careers and Math (HCM) online games.  HCM was designed to help elementary students explore a variety of mid-level healthcare careers while practicing the math skills necessary to be successful in them.  The project was born out of an informal chat over coffee with a mentor, and became an interdisciplinary collaboration of the Johnson Center for Simulation and the Healthcare Alliance (both at Pine Technical and Community College), and faculty from Mora Public Schools.

How much do you love the Minnesota State Fair? Like seriously. HOW. MUCH.
Did I mention I was a career-long 4-Her?  I think loving the State Fair is a requirement.  Not only did I spend my childhood living for the day I could spend the night in the "4-H Hilton" as an encampment kid, I also spent two years in State Arts-In, and two years as a State Ambassador (VP-elect, and VP) living at the fair for its duration (and beforehand).  I still feel like I’m developing my post-4-Her relationship with the Fair, so I’m pretty excited about working next door.



If you'd like to schedule a consultation with Alison, please feel welcome to do so. I look forward to seeing all the great e-learning projects that Extension programs + Alison will make!
Polling is a great way to engage attendees during a WebEx session. You can create, edit, and save a poll using the Polling panel within a WebEx session. I think it's best to set them up ahead of time, save the files (.atp) to your computer and load them up before or during your meeting.

A great way to set up your polls ahead of time is to download the WebEx Poll Questionnaire Editor. This will save you time and you don’t have to join a WebEx meeting to set up your polls. The editor is available to download from umn.webex.com under the Training Center tab. In the left navigation, select Support > Downloads.

WebEx has a nice quick guide on creating polls – worth paying attention to. One thing I learned from this guide is the ability to see which attendees have/have not yet responded to a poll when you've opened your poll. I found this under the Administering a Poll > monitor attendees' progress section.


Checklists for your Webinars

When one webinar checklist isn’t enough, here are two checklists that can help you in planning and running your webinar. The bigger the webinar, the more planning it takes. These checklists will work for most webinars:
  1. WebEx has a planning worksheet for Meeting Center that lists the Meeting Center tools and provides space for you to make some notes.
  2. I started a WebEx Webinar Checklist to include tasks that can sometimes be forgotten (e.g. recording the webinar). This checklist is open for additions/edits and feedback so please add your comments to the document! 

What’s the difference between Meeting Center, Training Center or Event Center?

Since January, we’ve been offering training and demos using Meeting Center. One question we get is people wondering what the differences are between Meeting Center, Training Center or Event Center? What I’ve found is that if you learn Meeting Center, you can easily learn to use Training Center and Event Center. While each Center has its own unique features and default settings, they all have the same basic functions. To name just a few, how you use chat, share files and record your webinar is the same in each of the Centers. 



So what is different? Start by reviewing the tools matrix comparison (by features). It does not include every last feature but it provides a good overview. Here I will highlight some notable differences between each Center.


Meeting Center: use this for webinars that are collaborative and interactive. Attendees by default are encouraged to activate their camera/mic, they have the ability to see all attendees, everyone can use the Share menu and the default chat is set to “everyone”. Anyone here can be the presenter!

Training Center: use this for webinars when you want additional engagement such as immediate attendee feedback - right in the Participant Panel using emoticons or a quick reply yes or no to a question. Training center allows you to put participants into breakout rooms for small group discussion. By default, attendees can see all other attendee names but they do not have rights to chat with other attendees. Attendees also can't share content unless the presenter allows it. Training Center can be collaborative and interactive but by default provides a more controlled environment for presenters.

Event Center: use this for webinars that are larger in size and less collaborative. Attendees can use the chat, threaded Q & A and answer polls. By default, attendees cannot see other attendee names, they cannot broadcast their audio/video and they do not have rights to share content. Event Center is great for one or more presenters broadcasting to many.

Keep in mind that all attendee privileges can be granted in any of these centers. Each Center can be customized to meet your needs. 

Share your WebEx Tips

If you have discovered any useful WebEx tips that you'd like to share, please comment on this post!! Also, if you have any specific questions about WebEx, please ask them here!



Custom Google Map example

I can be a bit of a St. Paul Campus evangelist. I refer to it as The Main Campus of the U of M. I created a secret handshake for St. Paulites to use. So when a group of IT professionals were meeting here for two days and asked for some tips on things to do, I knew I wanted to give them a custom Google Map highlighting all the best St. Paul has to offer!

Here it is! z.umn.edu/stpaultour

Does making a super sweet custom Google Map sound like something that might be useful to know? It's easy! Although it took me a bit to figure out where you do it.

Step 1: While logged into your Google account, go to maps.google.com. Click inside the search box and a roll-down should appear that says "My maps."

google map screenshot

Step 2: Select "Create" in the My Maps menu.

google map screenshot

Step 3: Title your new map, write a description, and begin adding points. You can add points by selecting the point button,

google map screenshot

or by searching for a location and selecting "Add to map."

google map screenshot

Step 4: To share your map, select "Share" and set the sharing permissions how you would like. Use the link to share with collaborators or the world.

Step 5: To print your map (if desired), select the three vertical dots near Share. Here's an example of what that looks like.

Google map screenshot

Have fun creating custom Google maps! I'd love to see what you create!


It’s all about WebEx these days, at least for me. Between the impromptu meetings to help people get started and the 1-Hour WebEx Orientation workshops, I’ve been WebEx-ing a lot. Thought I’d share a few useful tips about WebEx Meeting Center. I have more tips but this blog post would be way too long if I shared them all in such detail. No worries, I will share more soon.

1. Using your meeting room URL more than once (aka recurring meetings).  

For those of us who used UMConnect, it was regular practice to use the same meeting room again and again. The advantage was that all your content stayed there for the next meeting. In WebEx, meeting room content goes away when the meeting ends. Period. But not only your content goes away, the default is that your meeting room\URL will delete automatically when your meeting ends. It makes sense because who needs to have a bunch of old empty meeting rooms laying around. 



So why use the same room more than once? When you want to use the same URL for several meetings. You can set your meeting up as a recurring meeting which is great for meetings that are on a regular schedule (e.g. daily, weekly, monthly). You can change individual meeting times as needed. Use the Advanced Scheduler to set up recurring meetings.


  1. Log into umn.webex.com. Click Meeting Center > Schedule a meeting
  2. Click to use the Advanced Scheduler
  3. Recurring meetings is in step 2 (date and time)
2. Set your meetings to NOT delete. 
If you want to use the same meeting room\URL again and again and your meetings do not follow a regular schedule, the recurring meetings option may not work well for you. For example, my 1-Hour WebEx Orientation webinars are recurring but not on a regular schedule. I set my meeting room to NOT delete which allows me to use the same meeting URL - I just update the date & time. Here's how:
  1. Log into umn.webex.com. Click Meeting Center > Schedule a meeting
  2. Click to use the Advanced Scheduler
  3. Click to un-check the Delete from My Meetings when completed option

One last note about this. You can change your default setting so none of your meetings are deleted automatically. If you choose this option, you should delete them yourself when you no longer need them. The default setting can be changed under My WebEx > Preferences > Scheduling Options.

3. Recording a meeting? 
A quick observation from the University's Video Support team - when starting a WebEx recording they have seen a 1-3 minute delay for WebEx service to actually start recording.  Tip: start your recording 3-5 minutes before a meeting to guarantee you captured the entire event.  You can trim\edit your recording when the recording is completed to remove “dead air” time. Here are a few how-to’s on WebEx Trimming – 
Find your recordings: WebEx recordings can be found by logging into umn.webex.com. Click Meeting Center > My Recorded Meetings 

4. Want to see who attended your meeting? 
After your meeting, you can view or save a report about your participants. The report will provide names, email addresses, when they joined\left the meeting, etc. Reports are available after your meeting – be patient, it takes some time for the report to be available. You will notice different types of reports for Event Center and Training Center also. Find reports here:
  1. Log into umn.webex.com
  2. Under My WebEx click My Reports
  3. Under All Services, select Usage Reports
  4. Enter the date or date range of your meeting
  5. Click on your meeting for the details. Options: choose Printer friendly format or export your report data.


5. Need an alternate host? 
Every meeting must have a host present at all times. If the host leaves the meeting, the meeting will end for everyone. What if you set up a meeting and for whatever reason can no longer attend or are going to be late? You can add an alternate host for your meeting:
  1. In the quick meeting or advanced scheduler under the Attendees box, click Use Address Book

  2. Search for the UMN person (by name or email), select their name and click Alternate Host to add them. 

Last minute host change during a meeting: If a meeting host has to leave a meeting early, they can pass the host code to another person in the meeting. The host code is provided when a meeting is created and it will be listed under the Meeting Info tab in the meeting (only the host sees it).

To pass the code, the person taking the host role can click Reclaim Host Role from the Participant menu and enter the host code.


So there are your 5 WebEx Meeting Center tips for today. We love when people share their tips. Do you have any to share?

Happy WebEx-ing!

Do you remember our Video Kit to End All Video Kits? It's really just an iPad mini on a tripod. And it has been tremendously popular here in Extension! This simple way to shoot videos has really met a need with educators. It has also led to our educators requesting equally easy ways to do video editing. In fact, in a survey of Extension last September, video creation was the #1 topic people would like to learn more about. 

So Karen and I have put together a 3-hour hands-on Video Editing Workshop curriculum. Three hours! Hands on! I know! You will leave this workshop knowing how to edit video, trust me.

We based our workshop on Movie Maker, a free PC software that is easily accessible to all of our participants, but Camtasia Studio or iMovie would be other options. 

The purpose of this post is to share the curriculum and see what ideas are out there for how to make it better!

Here's the document with the general format of the workshop (page 1) and detailed handout (pages 2-4): 


 We tried it out for the first time last week with a group of about 25 Extension Educators. 

Plus there was a kangaroo.


See, just a typical Extension meeting. With a baby kangaroo.

I know what you're thinking. And yes I was totally confused by the baby kangaroo hopping around the room. Like, SO CONFUSED. And I was the only one. Everyone else is like, OF COURSE THERE'S A KANGAROO! 

Well ok then, I am nothing if not adaptable. On with the show!

First we outline our purpose to the large group. In this workshop, participants will:
  • Import video files to computer from device
  • Use Windows Movie Maker to edit video
  • Upload to YouTube (understanding the different channel options)
  • Learn where to backup large video files

Then we break into small groups and get everybody rocking and rolling with equipment--either with a Video Kit or with some accessories to add to their smart phone (like a tripod or mic). We knew we would run out of equipment, but we tried to spread it out so every group got to try something new to them.

This group below had a great setup--with the iPad mini, tripod, and the shotgun mic. Their video turned out great.


Here's a group using the little iPhone flexible tripod thingee clamped to a chair. They're also using the foam marker boards that we brought for quick and easy visual aids. Their video also turned out great!


We give people a good long while to shoot some video. Everybody gets a chance in front of and behind the camera. Then we have them come back into the large room where we have set up laptops pre-installed with Movie Maker. 

My favorite part is when I'm fretting over forgetting to pack extension cords. So Tim announces, "We need extension cords!" and half the room gets up and goes out to their car and BOOM we have 12 extension cords. Gotta love Extension Educators!

We convene as a big group and do a demo of importing from a device, and some basic Movie Maker tasks. We also show how to add the Extension branding graphics to videos. Then we have about an hour of editing time. Karen and I walk around and make sure everyone is getting a turn to try it--don't just have the experienced person in the group do all of it!

After editing time, Karen and I were prepared to do a little wrap up and answer any lingering questions. But what surprises us is: groups want to show their videos! So we start swapping out laptops with the projector and showing the sometimes finished, sometimes still-in-progress videos. SO FUN! It ended the day on such a positive and encouraging note--everyone clapping and laughing over each other's hard work.

Here's IT Goldy enjoying the show and tell!


What do you think? Anything we can add or change into this workshop to make it better? Any Extension teams interested in trying it out with us? Any ideas on how this could be offered at a distance? 


I love technology. And I love checklists. More specifically, I love CHECKING THINGS OFF checklists.

Have you ever wished there was a checklist, "Things you should know how to do with technology?" You could use it to see what you need to work on. It could be both useful for affirmation (DONE-CHECK!) and motivation (LEARN IT!). Would this not be the greatest check list ever?!

We here in Extension Technology worked with our advisory committee to come up with a checklist like this! Exciting! This version is still under construction--we welcome feedback on it.

Best checklist ever: Core Technology Skills for University of Minnesota Extension Personnel

This list of core technology skills includes measurable skills and knowledge. Whenever possible, we tried to include a link to "Learn it!" next to a skill. Because if you don't know it, that's ok! You are probably just a tiny bit of training away from nailing it.

The goal of this list is to provide directions for new areas of learning and growth, assist personnel and supervisors to identify any knowledge gaps, and identify areas where training is necessary. The Extension Tech team will also use this list to guide the organizational tech training plan and offerings. I told you this checklist was magical.

In the long term, we plan to review and revise this list every October to keep it fresh and relevant. So be sure to give us feedback!

Start Checking Stuff Off!

If you can check off every thing in your position's section of the Core Technology Skills checklist, Extension Technology will issue you the following super cool digital badge, Tech Skills:














(I was going to do Tech Skillz with a 'z' but then I thought better of it.)

Don't think you need to check everything off right away! The point of the list is to help find areas to focus your learning on. I know I certainly have some areas to work on!

What are you going to work on checking off?


As part of our initiative to connect technology more closely will the field work of Extension throughout Minnesota, representatives from our team are visiting Extension offices and events throughout the state. Please join us on our adventures!

In February, we visited the Marshall Regional Office! A long-awaited visit!!


Destination: Marshall Regional Office



Miles Traveled: 364 mi, round-trip



Time on road: 6 hours 55 minutes, round-trip (SNOW.)
Tech Team Members: Amy Baker, Danny Sussman, and IT Goldy
Vehicle: Dodge Caravan Minivan, a.k.a. The "SussBus" from Fleet Services
Number of bags of novelty potato chips we ate in the car: 2. Bacon mac and cheese, Mango Salsa.

OK first of all, that right there, that route on the map above, that is a terrible route. Do not take that route. I think it had gravel roads. And zero Caribou Coffees. ZERO. (Thank you Pat Persoon for showing us the correct route to go home!)

We got there just in time for Crockpotapalooza, which yes, is totally as amazing as you're thinking it sounds. A pot luck in our honor? Best office ever!



We settle into the conference room for our huge gut busting lunch.

We notice the conference room computer is repairing and restarting and making incessant beeping noises. Is this normal? we ask. No! they say, This is not normal at all! We investigate. Danny moves the Tostitos so we can see the situation better. Hey! Problem solved! The Tostitos were pressing a key on the keyboard.

Is this normal? we ask. No! they say, This is not normal at all!

I give my intro on Extension Technology's mission, and we deliver a training/demo on WebEx.


Then we get an office tour from our lovely tour guide, Karla Engels! One of my favorite parts of that was seeing the super sweet setup in Neil Linscheid's office--he has a great quality mic on a floor stand (for webinars) and he looks like a total rock star when he uses it.



Thank you Marshall, for such a wonderful day eating and laughing and seeing your very nice offices filled with amazing, friendly people!!