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KNOXVILLE — In late 2009, the University of Tennessee Extension launched an online learning portal geared to the professional development of its state-wide workforce. This system recently played a major role in helping the latest round of new hires get up-to-speed on major issues impacting their work as effective Extension professionals.

Online in-services such as “The Extension Program Planning and Evaluation Model” and “A Historical Overview of the U. S. Cooperative Extension System” were offered to the new employees, shaving a day off the on-site meetings and producing a huge cost-savings in terms of per diem travel costs. In addition to the on-boarding training, UT Extension Online Learning (extOL) is delivering a diverse range of professional development offerings and in-demand Extension programming that has traditionally been delivered at county meetings and in-services throughout the state, saving Extension specialists many days of time away from the office.

“The extOL Workforce Learning site has always been geared to improving the intellectual capital of our Extension professionals across the state,” says Richard Karel, Instructional Technology Specialist for Extension Evaluation and Staff Development, who is also the system administrator for extOL. “Professional development and compliance training have always been major goals for our department,” says Karel.

“And with the future delivery of Responsible Conduct in Research training online, UT Extension research professionals are at an advantage should research procedures ever be called into question by federal sponsors.” Karel worked with Dr. Gregory Reed, UT Knoxville Office of Research, and Dr. Glenn Graber to develop the RCR training.

“In a disaster response effort to counties throughout the state that were devastated by flooding, Extension recently delivered moisture meters to our county offices, but many of our Extension agents and clientele did not know how to use these. In a week, we had a video tutorial online and available, helping families and our Extension professionals save many thousands of dollars on lumber costs due to excess moisture in the wood.”

In its 100 years of existence in Tennessee, Extension has come up with some innovative ways to deliver valuable programming to Tennesseans, and the workforce that makes up UT and TSU Cooperative Extension Service, in order to remain effective in their mission.

For more information on extOL, visit, or e-mail


Richard Karel, 974-7336,