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MSU Extension’s Adaptation to Virtual Meetings, Possibly County Fairs

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, nearly everyone has had to modify their way of working.

MSU Extension has been adapting to the online-focused format to provide the same training and education as usual. For instance, Dr. Jeff Dwyer, director of MSU Extension, some Zoom meetings have been exceeding 1,000 participants.

“I think we’re reaching people who couldn’t always participate when things were more focused on being in-person, and they’re taking advantage—that’s exciting,” said Dwyer.

While that’s one positive, there have been some unfortunate consequences from the virus. Earlier this month, Michigan 4-H announced it would be suspending all in-person youth events managed by MSU Extension until Sept. 1. This difficult decision came with a lot of thought and consideration.

“Ultimately it was my decision, but I certainly had the input and guidance from the university and many others involved in Extension,” said Dwyer. “I believe we’ve been consistent in all of our communications that first and foremost—our staff, their families and the communities they serve—their collective health and safety is our number one priority.”

Dwyer said going back to life as we knew it before COVID-19 won’t happen overnight. MSU Extension’s mission is now on providing the best and most online programming. Dwyer says they don’t want to waste time and resources by focusing on planning in-person events that likely won’t happen.

“It really was an important way for us to say we want to invest all of our time, energy and resources in making available programming and create communities for all of those who depend on us,” said Dwyer. “If we focus on doing that online, then we know we’re investing our resources in a way that will have an impact.”

In the spirit of 4-H, MSU Extension is trying to make the best better, even during times of uncertainty.

“We all like to go to the county fair for a million reasons, including elephant ears and being around people we enjoy—but in a situation like this, we can also have a tremendous impact by using our resources to put together the best tools possible to help counties do fairs online, if that’s what they find themselves doing,” said Dwyer. “It’s not about not having a great experience, it’s going to be about having it differently.”

For more information on online learning opportunities with MSU Extension, click here.