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Tennesseans who are starting home-based baking businesses are getting some help from the UT Extension Online Learning (extOL) system. More than 100 entrepreneurs across the state are earning certifications through a state-mandated food safety program.

Faith Critzer, assistant professor and food safety extension specialist, and Michael Davidson, professor and head of the Department of Food Science and Technology, led the charge in converting the required face-to-face workshop to an online format.

Working with a subject matter expert at the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA) and Richard Karel, instructional technology specialist in the UT Institute of Agriculture’s (UTIA) Information Technology Services, they put together a simple but effective online workshop using the extOL learning management system.

Online certifications on the extOL system have been available since 2009. However, what set this effort apart from the rest was the short timeline in which it was launched, garnering praise from both the commissioner and assistant commissioner of the TDA.

“This project was definitely a team effort,” said Critzer. “We are very excited about this program and feel that it is a perfect example of linking technology and the extension mission to serve Tennesseans.”

“In a time when resources are somewhat stretched, UTIA is using technology to reach people who want to give the American dream a fair shot,” Karel said.

“It’s very encouraging to see the level of commitment extOL has received at the department and institute levels—and the positive feedback we’re getting from those enrolled in our online programs,” Davidson said. “This will meet the needs of those individuals who don’t want to travel or need it before the next face-to-face [workshop] will be presented.”

In addition to the non-credit, fee-based training delivered on the extOL certifications website, extOL is delivering a diverse range of professional development offerings and on-demand programming that has traditionally been delivered at county meetings and in-services throughout the state, giving extension professionals and Tennesseans a convenient way to complete these learning activities online.

“The extOL group of websites has always been geared to improving the intellectual capital of our extension professionals and citizenry across the state,” says Karel, who is also the system administrator for extOL. “What the domestic kitchen online certification proves is that UTIA has a viable method for reaching a sizable online audience—located anywhere in the state or the U.S.—who are in need of an in-demand, non-credit certification.”

For more information, visit the extOL website.

C O N T A C T :

Richard Karel, 974-7336,