This year and this summer of COVID are unlike anything we have ever experienced. We have all been feeling the effects of this global pandemic for several months now. I am especially grateful that despite these challenges and the constant changing of plans throughout this year, our 4-H program has continued to adapt, and in some cases found silver linings that have gone better than expected, and which we may choose to continue as a part of our program.
For example, we have conducted nine Quality Assurance sessions via Zoom video conference, and comments from some parents have indicated that they felt their youth heard the educational messages about how to care for their animals more clearly in this format then the often very crowded large in-person Quality Assurance sessions offered in the past. This format also enabled us to electronically track attendance and update the member’s 4-HOnline profile once they completed this state-mandated training.
Another silver lining has been the transition from paper forms to electronic submission. Government documents like the Ohio Department of Agriculture Drug Use Notification Form (DUNF) have been converted to fillable online Qualtrics surveys. These forms make it easier to read and answer the questions, as they show only one question or field at a time and use skip-logic to only show you the most relevant questions based on answers to earlier questions. This new way of collecting information also instantly transmits an e-mail confirmation to the person completing the form so they know it has been received and transmits an e-mail to ODA and local fair officials if the animal has been treated with medicine that is still within the withdrawal time at the time of arrival at the fair.
Other silver linings we’ve realized during this time is that many of our youth, parents, and volunteers have enhanced their digital literacy skills through using programs like Zoom, and in some cases found ways to conduct business more quickly and with less time away from family. Committee meetings and 4-H club meetings are a great example of this. I know that we would all much rather gather in person and enjoy the socialization and fellowship that in-person interactions bring. However, from my experience and from talking with many club advisors, virtual meetings have tended to get down to business more quickly and the meetings have not lasted as long.
For an evening committee or club meeting, participants can move from their dinner table into the meeting in two minutes and be back to engaging with the family just as quickly when the meeting ends. And as 4-H staff who need to communicate with over 400 4-H volunteers and committee members, we can now do this more quickly and efficiently in a Zoom meeting that can even be recorded for those who are not able to attend versus needing to plan weeks or months in advance to schedule a series of in-person meetings.
While we are all eager to return to normal pre-COVID life, now is a great time to be thinking of what silver linings we’ve experienced during this pandemic and how we might incorporate them into life going forward so that we might retain the best of new processes, technologies, and ways of doing things while also resuming opportunities for in-person interaction.
Doug Foxx is an OSU Extension 4-H Youth Development Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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