This page is part of Extension Quick Bytes, online technology enrichment for Extension employees. Learn more about this series here!

Did you see what I did there? Q and R words in the title! Can you stand it!


QR codes are these little things: 

Looks familiar, right? They are all over the place! The QR stands for "Quick Response" codes and are really just a square bar code. People scan them with their smartphone and it takes them to a web address. 

In this Quick Byte, we'll look at: 

  • Good uses for QR codes
  • How to scan and use one
  • How to make one
  • How to see user stats


Why would you want to use a QR code? Usually, people use a QR code where printing a URL is awkward--like on a teeny box of raisins or in a product ad. But that is only half the reason to use a QR code. You also have to consider if it will be convenient for a user. When they see your QR code, are they holding their mobile device?

If you have room for a shortened URL and your users are not in an environment where they are constrained to their mobile device, then you probably shouldn't be using a QR code. 

Good example: QR codes at bus stops! See where the bus is on the route! Awesome!!!

Just be aware to not put the QR codes on ten foot poles. They are very hard to scan up there.

Good example: QR code on classrooms! Scan for room calendar! Awesome!

Good example: QR code on a sidewalk sign. Scan to 'like' on Facebook! Win an iPad!

Good example: Fresh French Fries, scan to 'like' on Facebook. No iPad giveaway though, so I'm not sure why I would do this. Except that I LOVE FRESH FRENCH FRIES!!

Good example: Put it on your research poster! People viewing it will likely be holding a mobile device and can go look at whatever it is you're plugging. How convenient!

Good example: Medical alert--paramedics scan with special scanner and get your medical info. These are stickers, I say why not commit and get a tattoo?

Good Example: Pint glass from Guinness.  It turns your drink into a "social media experience." How super cool is that?!

Bad example: Back of a truck. They missed the points about QR advantages being small and convenient for the user to scan! Try not to die while scanning this!

Bad example: Perkins kids menu. Because I definitely what my kids to be playing with my smartphone and syrup at the same time!


How to Scan
To scan a QR code, you need a mobile device with a camera and connected to network. Then you need a 'scanner' app. There are lots of scanner apps, just pick any free one like Scan or any one like it. Then while the app is open, point your camera at the QR code and your app will do the rest--showing you the web link that the code was pointing to.

This business of needing an app is something to be aware of when considering creating a QR code. Does your audience likely have a scanning app on their phones? (kids at Perkins? seriously.) 

How to create and track
There are lots of sites that create QR codes from a URL. But the easiest way for those of us with Google accounts (everyone at umn) is to use the URL shortener: Just paste in the URL, click "shorten URL," then click "details" and you will see an image of a QR code. Right click on it and you can save it.

This is also where you can see the stats of how many scans you've gotten. If you use the shortened URL also, the clicks and scans will be mixed together, something to keep in mind.


  1. Leave a comment and let us know if you have ever scanned a QR code! Also if you have noticed a particularly good or bad use of the codes.
  2. Go to and try shortening a URL and getting a QR code image.

But Wait there's MORE!

Every University of Minnesota Extension-affiliated employee who leaves a comment below, or via twitter (use tag #ExtQuickBytes), facebook, or google+ during the time period November 15-November 30, 2012 will be entered to win this fabulous prize--a WTF inked stamper! You can use this to note questionable QR codes as well as other items of confusing significance. How fun!

Today's Extension Quick Byte is written by the lovely and knowledgeable Kristen Mastel, outreach and instructional librarian with the University Libraries.  

Have you ever Googled yourself or someone else? What does the world know about you? Privacy concerns are rampant in todays social networking world, and maintaining one's online presence is essential.  


We all have heard the media hyped stories of high school student athletes caught drinking through Facebook party photos, fast food employees posting unsanitary photos of food, burglars using FourSquare, and the employee who ranted on Twitter about his/her employer and was fired. These are the extremes. We are much more likely to have our Twitter or Facebook account hacked by someone, or a friend post an embarrassing photo tagged with your name on a social network.

By the end of this Quick Byte you should:
  • Be aware of what you share
  • Control what you can control

We care about the perceptions of the world around us. However, do you act the same way online as you do in-person? Are you friends with the same people online as in-person? (For a bit of social media humor watch Can I be your friend?.)

Maintaining an online presence is essential today. A digital presence allows us to keep in touch with not only family and friends, but also colleagues and Extension users. The Internet has also given everyone the power to disseminate information to the broader world.

The Internet is a part of your permanent record. Did you know the Library of Congress is archiving all tweets? Have you ever looked at a website's history through the Way Back Machine? What we post today in a digital world, can easily be shared and spread across the Internet, so spend the time up front to consider settings and know your rights.


Social networks change their user agreements, privacy and security settings constantly.  Consider reviewing your settings frequently.

  • Review your social network settings.
    • Review your security settings. Enable Facebook to use a secure connection whenever possible.
    • Review your privacy settings. Consider enabling review of any tags or posts that people mention your name. Also, did you know that third party apps have access to your personal information, sometimes your Wall, etc. You can control many of these under your privacy settings.
    • Create Facebook lists/Google + circles. Consider posting information to only the select individuals that would be interested in the information.  Would my colleague on Facebook want to hear about my little niece?  Consider creating lists for family, friends, colleagues, etc.
    • Consider viewing your profile as an outsider. Facebook has a "View As..." feature under Activity Log, to view your profile as the public would, or as someone you have defined in a list.
  • Review location settings on your cell phone and camera. In particular, consider info about your current location and whether you want it shared, and with whom. This info is often attached to photos, especially if taken with a mobile device.

  1. Review your settings on social networks, such as, Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and LinkedIn.
  2. Take the short e-Professionalism course, at:
  3. Leave a comment if you agree or disagree with something here, or found something else interesting to share. Plus, be entered to win a nifty Choose Privacy mini button!
Last Quick Bytes Winner! Congratulations Karl Foord for winning the "Another Meeting" notepad!! Thanks for your participation everyone!


Making a quick (but effective) video is so super easy, if you haven't done it yet you will be simply amazed. And I bet you already have almost everything you need! 

The video we posted here recently touring our new Extension Technology offices was made entirely with an iPhone and the free video editing software, Windows Movie Maker. We'll show you how! Plus there's a GIVEAWAY at the end!!!!


Showing a video is a quick and easy way to engage, entertain, and educate. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a kajillion. Right? Informal video can be a very effective vehicle for your information. I was just at a conference where the speaker showed a video of kids answering questions about her as an example of how she introduces herself to her online classroom. What an awesome idea! I'm totally stealing that.


All you need is a video camera of some sort (Kodak, Flip, phone, whatever), and Windows Movie Maker.

When you are installing, it wants to put all of the "Windows Live Essentials" on, but we don't really need all that crappola, so select the option to Choose the programs you want to install.

Then just check Photo Gallery and Movie Maker from the list.

Voila! You have an entirely decent movie editor on your computer. 

From here it is as simple as dragging and dropping. Then a little fiddle here, a little fiddle there, and you have your video.

I would like to say here that I urge you not to make this too complicated. This is an informal video to either share something visual with your audience, or to connect with them. It's not a marketing piece or something we're putting on DVD and selling. Don't get hung up on making it perfect.

When you are happy with your video, you can export it directly from Windows Movie Maker to Youtube, Facebook, Vimeo, or to an mp4 to upload directly to some other program. I recommend using the High Definition settings (1080p) if available, because HD videos look super crisp and streaming sites (like YouTube and Vimeo) can always downgrade the quality for slower connections. They can't upgrade it though.

On the fly...
Along the lines of not making it perfect, imagine the possibilities of on-the-fly video. Field reports, interviews, feedback. If you have a smartphone and buy a movie editing app to use on it, you can do this quite simply! As a completely unprofessional example, here are my two girls eating ice cream--I recorded, edited, added music, and uploaded this before they finished their ice cream, all just using an old iPhone. Kachow!

Home Depot uses this on-the-fly philosophy by empowering their employees to answer questions on the Home Depot forums using quick, informal videos. Check out my favorite example!

If you would like to add music to your video, a great place to start is this page Legal Music For Videos.


  1. Think of some uses for video in your work, share on one of our discussion channels (comment below, twitter, google+, or facebook). Or share a particularly interesting use of video that you've seen!
  2. [Optional but strongly encouraged!] Download Windows Movie Maker. Take some video and play around with it.

But Wait there's MORE!

Every University of Minnesota Extension-affiliated employee who leaves a comment below, or via twitter (use tag #ExtQuickBytes), facebook, or google+ during the time period August 13-August 21, 2012 will be entered to win this fabulous prize--a super cool meeting notepad! You can use this to impress your coworkers. I know I would be very impressed.

I heard someone once describe themselves as "addicted to learning." Which made me laugh--because it's silly--and because when you look around Extension, it's so true! Well don't bother checking into rehab, we're going to hook you up, Quickbytes style!


This week we are going to look at online courses. And I'm not talking about as an educator, I'm talking about as a STUDENT! You'll be encouraged to try an online course or two, and shown some places to start.


I truly believe online education is critical to the future of Extension. We are getting there,slowly, but there has long been something I've suspected is an issue. Most of us went to school before "online education" existed. I went to classes for 19 years and never once experienced anything except face-to-face learning. Without firsthand experience being a student online, how can we educate effectively online?


A revolutionary movement is currently taking place to make high-quality courses widely available for free online. These courses typically offer no credit or certificate. It is learning for learning's sake, made free 

Online courses that are taught live involve a cohort of students that step through the course with the instructor along a syllabus timeline. When these are taught openly for free online, they are called MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses. 

When I first heard about MOOCs, it was in reference to the now famous Stanford Artificial Intelligence online course offered in Fall of 2011. The professors decided to open it up to the world, in addition to the registered Stanford students, and ended up with 160,000 students in a class that typically has 177. 23,000 finished the complete course. The course included many interactive features you may not have predicted, like peer grading, virtual office hours, and online discussion forums where students could ask and answer questions, and vote on which were important enough to filter up the professor. 

Here is a quote from one of the professors, Sebastian Thrun--I get chills whenever I read it:

"Having done this, I can't teach at Stanford again. I feel like there's a red pill and a blue pill, and you can take the blue pill and go back to your classroom and lecture your 20 students. But I've taken the red pill, and I've seen Wonderland."

The Stanford professors say their decision to open the course up was greatly inspired by the efforts of the Khan Academy, an amazingly effective free teaching site full of simple videos geared for K-12 but surprisingly addictive for adults too. 

We can all be part of this movement and take a course from Stanford, MIT, Harvard, for free. Did you ever think you'd do that in your lifetime?

Here are some sites to look around on:

Khan Academy
The aforementioned Khan Academy is amazing. You simply must check it out if you haven't already.

Coursera has complete, synchronous (taught live) courses from 18 universities. I am currently enrolled in Internet History, Technology, and Security. It has 35,000 students, is seven weeks long, and looks like this:

The Saylor Foundation offers free, college-level, self-paced courses (these are not MOOCs), which are grouped together in "Majors," a very cool way that they categorize their offerings. Each area of study shows core courses, pre-requisites, and electives. 

iTunes U
Anybody can use iTunes--you don't need an iPhone or iPad, just a plain computer will do--and access the awesomeness that is iTunes U. There are many free courses on iTunes, some video, some audio. I am definitely addicted to iTunes U!! Apple claims this is the largest catalog of free education content in the world, and I believe it. It is complete and utter awesomeness. 


  1. Repeat after me: I will take an online course!
  2. Explore the sites above. Sign up for a course!
  3. Download iTunes. Download and watch/listen to something from iTunes U.
  4. Leave a comment and let us know what course you signed up for, what you found on iTunes U, or what has got you particularly excited about online education!

On Thursday, July 5, 2012, Extension Technology switched from using our own customer request ticketing system to using a new University-wide shared service called ServiceNow.


  • Different messages:
    • email you receive will come from "University of Minnesota Service Desk" (notice the .com address instead of
    • email subject line will start with INC123456
    • Online self-service for tracking your help ticket. If you would like, you can login and read what has been done on your incident, as well as add additional notes or screenshots.  (note--please do not enter new tickets for Extension here yet, they will go to OIT's 1-HELP) See the screenshot below [click image to enlarge]:


  • The people supporting you, Extension Technology staff will continue to be your first line of support. 
  • Continue to enter tickets online or call 612-624-6700.

  • Better collaboration and coordination with central OIT and other IT units across campus
  • This change is a step towards better tools for you. As the rollout of ServiceNow continues, you'll have access to a searchable knowledge base and more.


We welcome any and all feedback on this change. Tell us what you think via our online feedback form or leave us a comment!

The Extension Technology group has just moved to new offices! 

Once we are settled in we will host an open house, probably in a couple months. In the meantime, you are always welcome to stop by and say hello!

Here's a quick video to show how to find us!


Passwords! Seriously, how many passwords do I have? At least a kajillion. It is crazy trying to keep up with all of them. There must be a better way. In this QuickByte, we're going to check out our options for password security!


Just last week, I (and probably about half of humankind) received this email from Linkedin:

We recently became aware that some LinkedIn passwords were compromised and posted on a hacker website. We immediately launched an investigation and we have reason to believe that your password was included in the post.

Darnit! Of course, if I'd used good password habits, that wouldn't be a big deal. IF I'd used good password habits. Which of course I do. Some of the time. Or almost never. Anyway.

Did you know the most common passwords are "seinfeld," "password," and "123456"? 

Are we smarter than a fifth grader? Ha! We need to make better passwords.

True Story: My iTunes account got hacked, which led to $85 of charges I didn't make. Yikes! My husband says, "Good thing that wasn't the same as your gmail password or something stupid like that!" and then he bursts out laughing as I panickedly leap for the computer to change my identical gmail password. 

So please join me in upping my password game!


How are you supposed to keep up with a kajillion passwords, while keeping them all strong and also not reusing them? Well, there's an app for that! Several actually.

This genre of app is called "Password Managers." The idea is that you put all your kajillion passwords in a little password manager database and password-protect THAT with some sort of master password, then that manager can show you your username/passwords as you need them or autofill into websites. One Password to Rule Them All, if you catch my Lord of the Rings drift. 

I know what you're thinking. What if my master password manager gets hacked? Typically these databases are protected with super-power encryption, with the idea that they will be much harder to hack than cruddy old Linkedin, especially if you are keeping your virus definitions up-to-date. But yes, in summary, if your master password manager gets hacked (or forgotten!), you are, shall we say, screwed. 

So that's why it's important to pick the password manager that will suit your needs. Please search around if you feel that you have certain password needs. I looked at a lot of apps while writing this article, and I think the best option for most of us out there is Lastpass. Here's why, and these are important things to look for in any password manager:
  • It is free (although they might sucker me into the $12/year to get the iPhone app). 
  • It generates secure passwords (more secure than "seinfeld?" Oh yes indeed.)
  • It syncs to the cloud (you can see your updated info from a number of devices). I like this because I have a lot of devices. How many? A woman never tells. 
  • You can export your data to a text file at any time. This is crucial because you don't want to have all your passwords locked into some proprietary format.
  • It isn't too tech-y. It is pretty easy to use!


  1. First of all, go change your Linkedin password! now!
  2. Now go change any other sites that had the same password as your Linkedin password. (no judgement here)
  3. Start thinking about how you should manage passwords! Consider downloading Lastpass.
  4. Leave a comment if you have any good tips for us on password management! Or horror stories, those are always fun too!


One of the best things about Microsoft Office is the ability to customize applications to work the way you want. For example, the default font in Word and Excel 2010 is Calibri, 11 point. If you prefer to use a different font and don't want to have to change it for every new document you create, you can change the default font to whatever you want. What's great is that you can change the default setting for just about anything in Office, such as customizing tabs and buttons on the Ribbon, adding commands to the Quick Access Toolbar, changing AutoCorrect options and even changing the application color scheme. 


Save yourself time! Be more efficient! Use your software the way you like it.


Many dialog boxes have a Set As Default button that you can click to change default settings (e.g. page layout, font, paragraph).

Each application has its own Options menu that you should go through and tweak the settings the way you like them. In Office 2010, the Options menu can be found under the File tab:

  1. Check out the Options menu in Word and Excel
  2. Please leave a comment on the blog letting us know what changes you've made to customize your software!

Today's Extension QuickByte is written by the lovely and knowledgeable Kristen Mastel, outreach and instructional librarian with the University Libraries.  

In this week's QuickByte, we'll look at copyright and explore tips for practical use of other's content.


In today's world all it takes is a couple of clicks to copy and paste to enter the world of plagiarism and copyright infringement. Laws around these issues remain ambiguous and unclear, and questions about use must be handled on a case by case basis.  


Copyright is automatically granted at the time a new work is created. Sometimes you may be able to use something because it falls under an exception or exemption to copyright law.  Other times, you may be able to use something because your use fits within fair use, a flexible-but-confusing part of the law that enables many different types of uses under many different conditions.  


There are four factors and the question of transformativeness to consider when you are evaluating a work for fair use.  

  • The purpose and character of the use, including educational or non-profit purposes, or commercial uses.  
  • The nature of the copyrighted work.
  • The amount and "substantiality" of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole.
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
  • Transformativeness uses a source work in completely new or unexpected way.
If you are unsure about your use, consider contacting the rights holder, or consulting an attorney. In Extension, you can contact Neil Anderson, copyright contact.

Several non-infringing uses that do not require you to contact the copyright holder exist, including: public domain works, classroom use exemption and Creative Commons.  

Creative Commons licenses allow copyright holders to share works with the public under a variety of preset conditions. If you meet the conditions of the license on a particular work, you can make use of the work without payment or further permission. One must own a copyright in the work in order to grant a Creative Commons license. (

[click to enlarge]


  1. Review a document or presentation where you used another person's work. If you think your use falls under Fair Use, analyze the relevant issues around the work with the Four Factor Checklist.  
  2. Search the Creative Commons for images, videos, and other content that has been approved for re-use by the author(s) (depending on the license and your intended purpose).  


Research and promotional posters are a need that comes up all the time in Extension. Poster sessions, fairs, and events are all examples of places you might need a quick poster. 

Did you know they're not hard to make in PowerPoint?


PowerPoint is an easy way any one of us can create an impressive poster! Large-format graphics look professional and modern. I was recently at the U's Academic Technology Showcase, and it was clear that most exhibitors had no idea how to make a nice looking poster!


Poster Templates

The easiest way to start is to download a template. Extension templates are here.
The University's images library also has a couple professional-looking templates. Don't forget to add the Extension wordmark, if you use those!

Poster Design

I always start my posters with a storyboard--where you roughly sketch it out on a regular piece of 8.5x11 paper. The flow of your information should go from top left to bottom right. Mark where you'd like to put a graph or a photo and headings.

If you are not using a poster template (links above), open a fresh PowerPoint presentation and under the Design tab, select Page Setup. Change the dimensions of your slide to the desired dimensions of your poster. PowerPoint allows a maximum of 56x56. If your poster needs to be bigger than that, you will need to create it at half size and print it at 200%.

You will need to do a lot of zooming in and out (under the View tab) while working on the poster. It may also be helpful to select View>Gridlines, which puts a nonprinting dotted line every inch on the screen.

Remember to use bullets and numbered lists whenever you can. Keep your text in short, concise, legible statements. Minimize complete sentences and paragraphs.  Also note that text in upper and lower case letters is more readable than all capitals. Text should be at least 1/4-inch tall and readable from a distance of 6 feet. To see inches on your PowerPoint, select View>Ruler in the tool bar. Do not stretch a picture across the back of your entire poster--this makes your file size humongous and also makes your text hard to read.

Poster Printing

Save your poster as a PDF before sending it to the printer. This can be done via Save As>PDF. Open your PDF and select View>Rulers and make doubly sure that your file is huge and not accidentally printing to 8.5x11. Zoom in to about 300% and make sure your graphics are not 'jaggy' beyond recognition.

Next step, send it to the printer! Some printers I have used and found to be good:

Lots more information!

Welcome to Quickbyte #5, Edit Something on Wikipedia!


Well hello, I doubt I have to explain what Wikipedia is! It's only the most humongous site on the internet. It is likely the largest collection of knowledge ever assembled, and is certainly the most widely accessible.

Wikipedia is written collaboratively by largely anonymous volunteers. All edits to pages are live immediately. This creates a unique, living reference site that is surprisingly reliable and free to anyone all over the world.


I hear about collaborating content experts and I can't help but think of Extension! 

I'm sure you've heard the old "Publish or Perish" saying. This article, Publish in Wikipedia or Perish, is about a peer-reviewed journal that requires authors to add a Wikipedia article summarizing their journal article. Interesting idea!

Improving the quality of or creating articles on the web in your field is as easy as a few clicks. Read on to find out how!



You don't have to register to edit a page on Wikipedia--you can edit most any page on the site anonymously. But I think it's possible that your contributions could connect you with others interested in your field, and it would be nice if they could find you! Rightly or wrongly, you are seen as more credible if you are logged in behind a username. Also, if you are logged in, you can click the star icon on an article to show any changes since your edit.

Five Pillars

Part of what makes Wikipedia so great are its Five Pillars. These simply and quickly lay out the ground rules for editing: keep it factual, civil, neutral, flexible, and open.

Version Control

Wikipedia has 'version control,' meaning that all versions of the page are saved and can be reverted to. Should the page be mistakenly edited (vandalized) or just edited by an inexperienced contributor, it is never permanent. Any other contributor can revert it back.

If edits you make to an article are rolled back, don't take it too personally. Take it as a teachable moment, and ask the editor who reverted your changes for advice. To prevent this from happening often, include a short sentence in the 'edit summary' box before you submit, and edit pages while logged in.

How to Edit

Editing articles on Wikipedia is really quite easy!

Each Wikipedia article has tabs on it: Article, Discussion, View History,and Edit. Click on "Edit." You will see the article as it looks in what is called "wiki markup" language. Don't be alarmed! Just take your time and you will see what is going on. It's not like you're starting a page from scratch--just look at what is there and edit it. 

Wikipedia can be intimidating. Don't be afraid to ask for help on Wikipedia's help pages or right here on QuickBytes!

Just remember, if 100,000 other people have figured out how to be active editors, you can do it too.


  1. Look through this tutorial,  How to Edit a Wikipedia Page
  2. Visit the QuickBytes Wikipedia Sandbox and TRY EDITING!
  3. Please leave a comment on the blog or a social media channel letting us know how you liked this QuickByte!


"Social Bookmarking" is a way to share things you find on the internet with others. You are not actually sharing the thing itself, but a link to it.


I'm sure we can all think of instances when it is useful to share some links to web pages across computers. Here are some examples of situations where storing your bookmarks online might be useful:
  • Planning a trip or event
  • Basic literature review
  • Share current articles with colleagues
  • Resources for your class participants
  • Often switching between computers


I thought I'd start with Delicious, since it is the oldest and most well-known social bookmarking site. In fact, Delicious kind of pioneered the whole thing. If you have used it in the past, you will now notice that it sucks.


Move over Delicious, Pinterest is the new sheriff in town. Pinterest is hot hot hot!

Do you remember when you were a teenage girl and you put stuff up on a bulletin board in your bedroom--pictures of cute shoes and Leonardo DiCaprio and funny quotes? You don't?

Well anyhoo. Pinterest is like that.

Pinterest is a social bookmarking site that focuses on images. What you're really bookmarking, or 'pinning' on Pinterest is the image file. This is nice because it is so visual (going through someone's bookmarks is like looking through a catalog), and also not nice, because if something has no image with it, you are out of luck.

You can see QuickByte's pinboards here to check it out. Here is a good video tutorial, Pinterest Tutorial (youtube).

Also, here is a cool infographic:


Diigo is another social bookmarking site, one that has a definite educator slant. You can apply for an 'Educator Account' (which makes organizing curriculum and students easier). The site has forums, where bookmarks you make can be shared and commented on by fellow forum members. These forums vary in their usefulness, some are full of spam, but a great example of a useful one is Diigo in Education, which covers a lot more tools than just Diigo.

While Pinterest is hot, I think Diigo is more who you might want to settle down with.

Here is an interesting article that can be extrapolated to a lot of non-classroom learning as well: Using Diigo in the Classroom.

Google Bookmarks

I suppose no list of tools is complete without Google! Google Bookmarks is no frills (no thumbnails, no little summary blurbs, no socializing), but with the advantage of being part of the UMN's Google Apps. It is perhaps the most useful if your main purpose for social bookmarking is sharing with yourself between computers (anti-social bookmarking? hee hee). With none of the features of Pinterest or Diigo, it seems like this little tool is about ready for a makeover.

  1. Click through to Pinterest and Diigo, explore around enough to get a feeling what they are.
  2. Create an account on the one that you think would be most useful.
  3. Leave a blog comment, (tweet, facebook, whatever) telling us a possible use, question, or preference regarding social bookmarking.

Last Week's Winner!

The winner of the paper tweet pad is..... Bruce Schwartau! Thank you all for your comments and tweets, we'll have another give away in a couple weeks!

Today we'll look at tips and methods for creating online surveys and collecting feedback using available web-based tools, many of which are free. PLUS THERE IS A GIVEAWAY AT THE END!!!

Online surveys are a way to gather feedback data from your survey audience in a convenient, cost-effective way. Online surveys can be used to gather opinions, assess knowledge, evaluate events, determine interest and availability, and I'm sure a million other uses!
Please note that the Extension Evaluation team has lots of resources if you have more advanced questions about assessing your program. UM Extension Program Evaluation resources (login required)

Web-based tools make delivering surveys easy and, in most cases, can also help you organize the results.
Audience feedback can be invaluable in decision-making regarding your program. It can also just be an easy way to get a vote on a simple detail (lunches, agenda items, etc)! All you need from your audience is their email addresses and a willingness to give feedback. Making online surveys is so easy, you'll have to remind yourself not to do it too often!
Which reminds me, I made a survey for you!

Quick Bytes: Topic Interest Survey

Thank you for taking it!

I'm going to go over the online tools for audience feedback that I prefer.
There are lots to choose from so you will of course need to evaluate
what fits best for your purpose. Please leave a comment if you know of
another one that might be useful to Extension work!

I have done a lot of Surveymonkey surveys, and it is a great tool, but it does have a few quirks.
First positive thing, it's fast. I used Surveymonkey for the survey you just took (hopefully! go take it!) on Quick Byte topics. It allows for easy cutting and pasting so I had that survey setup in less than 2 minutes... KA-CHOW!! (..."and it looks like it," you're thinking...).
Second, it's free. Surveymonkey has a free option, but even better, Extension has a paid organizational account! You can contact the IT Help Desk to learn how to have access to our account.
Third, it gives you a nice organized spreadsheet and charts of your results. This is a huge time saver for me! Look, you can even share them on a web page! (you can password protect this if you wanted)
And fourth, it's got all kinds of fancy "logic" features. If someone answers the question "how many school-age kids do you have" with zero, then you can have it skip the next whole page about what are
their after school activities. (or whatever!) Pretty cool.
As for the quirks.
I really wish it had the ability to do email notifications when a response is submitted. This drives me crazy. What this means is that you can't use Surveymonkey for any kind of "response requested" form, like a trouble ticket or a contact form.
Also, it does not allow file attachments. So using Surveymonkey to submit proposals or reviews
is a problem. You can make a giant text box(es) for people to paste into, but everything will lose all its formatting and you will have a heck of a job cleaning that up (been there, done THAT).
But all things considered, Surveymonkey is my go-to tool. For a good video tutorial, watch this one on YouTube.

Wufoo is a great online survey tool, and is very similar to Surveymonkey. The reason I am including it AND Surveymonkey is that it does email notifications AND file attachments.
My main reason for showing a slight preference for Surveymonkey is that it is paid for. ha! (Wufoo does have a free option, but it limits you to only 3 surveys and 100 responses.)
In case you're not familiar with Wufoo, here is a form I made. You can snoop around and submit it and see how it feels.
My recommendation is to create a test survey, maybe just the first few questions of your actual survey, in both Wufoo and Surveymonkey and you will see right away what works best for you. I always need to send my surveys to a group for review, and Surveymonkey allows me to set that up as a separate data set (which I can then ignore in the final results). Also, Surveymonkey allows me to cut and paste more easily than Wufoo. Stuff like that, as well as the email notification and file upload features and cost, will make your decision for

UMSurvey is the University of Minnesota's centrally-supported survey tool. It is in the process of being retired, so I'm not really going to talk about it. You can read about the project to replace it here.

Google Forms

Google Forms can sometimes be a great tool for online surveys. If you need email notifications and have a simple survey form, Google Forms is definitely the way to go. And you can't beat the price!! (free)

The times I have used Google Forms for online surveys, the main reason was so that I could then "hand it off" to whomever I was creating it for. Since it is essentially just a Google Doc, that is very easy to do!

However, the survey results are just dumping to a spreadsheet table and therefore you will get no fancy data organization here. That kind of bugs me after working with Surveymonkey and Wufoo so much. And beware--you can't duplicate a form. This is a huge pain for me, since I use similar forms year after year.


Doodle is not an online survey tool, really, but more of a quick polling tool for finding a meeting time.
But it is so awesome, you have to know about it!! So I put it in this unit. Go check it out, you don't need an account or anything.

  1. Click through to Surveymonkey, Wufoo, and Doodle. Poke around until you feel like you know what it would take to get started.
  2. Leave a comment if you agree or disagree with something here, or found something else interesting to share.
  3. Pat yourself on the back!
But Wait there's MORE!
Every University of Minnesota Extension-affiliated employee who leaves a comment below, or via twitter (use tag #ExtQuickBytes), facebook, or google+ during the time period March 29-April 4, 2012 will be entered to win this fabulous prize--a paper tweet notepad, for communicating tweets the old-fashioned way!

Note: This week's QuickByte is by Danny Sussman, Extension webmaster and twitter tweeter extraordinaire!

You've taken the pledge, now start following us Twitter!  You don't even need a Twitter account!

We'll be sharing Quick Bytes on Twitter using the Extension IT account (@UMNExtIT), or you can listen in on the discussion by following our hashtag: #ExtQuickBytes

I know, I know... It's our second week, and already I'm using jargon like hashtags. Hashtags are just words that everyone agrees to use in their tweets, to make finding each other easy.

To listen in, go to and enter #ExtQuickBytes in the search box, and you can see what everyone is saying.

If you already have a Twitter account, you can save the search. When you click on the search box in Twitter, a list of your saved searches will appear.

We'd love for you to be a part of the conversation. Make a comment, ask a question, start a discussion or share something cool. Just add #ExtQuickBytes to your tweet, and you'll be easy to find.

If you don't have a Twitter account and want to join the conversation, sign up!

Once you're on Twitter, follow @UMNExtIT for more QuickBytes - we have big plans!

Take the pledge!

I Pledge (Technology Pledge) from Extension Quick Bytes on Vimeo.

Technology Pledge in PDF - print and hang on your wall!

It's time to get serious about using technology.

It's not about technology and whether we like it or not (or whether we're good at it or not), it's about staying up-to-date and literate in the tools of today's educators.

Through 'Quick Bytes,' we will together explore the digital learning tools that may be useful to you. We'll do it as a group, helping each other along. But the motivation to participate, engage, and try out new ideas is yours.

We need to own personally the task of becoming proficient with today's digital tools.*

We need to stop making excuses about having the time, not enough training, assuming our audience doesn't care, etc. and get serious about trying new technologies in Extension. We need to do this to stay current as individuals and relevant as an organization.

*this phrase borrowed from:

We can do this! Let's do it together!

Take the quiz!

What kind of Tech User are you? [Pew Internet and American Life Project]

Take the tech user quiz and see what kind of techie it thinks you are--did it match what kind of techie YOU thought you are? Please share in the comments below!

(note: ICT=Information and Communication Technology)

I was a Digital Collaborator, which means I like the blogs and connections and the general communality the internet offers. I thought that was right on the money!!


  1. Take the pledge!

  2. Take the quiz!

  3. Leave a comment on either (you can comment on the blog, facebook, twitter, google+, etc)

  4. Pat yourself on the back!