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Photo: Janet Sylvia

Personnel Profiles

Janet Sylvia

People in South America, the U.K. and Australia are taking notice of UGA Cooperative Extension. And it's all thanks to digital media professional Janet Sylvia. Her innovative use of Wimba technology has drawn international attention not only because it allows agents across the state to conduct training sessions live online, but because of its environmental and economic benefits.

"When Extension uses Wimba, they do so to meet a need," Sylvia said. "When others hear about what Extension is doing with Wimba, they see us as leaders and innovators."

Sylvia was instrumental in bringing Wimba to Extension three years ago and was the first to use the online tool with such far-reaching success. It started with small meetings and trainings, then began being used for statewide, multi-state and international collaborations, she said. The technology is advantageous because it can be accessed from most personal computers, and it's easy to use.

Through Wimba, this year's Winter School was done with online training sessions. "People in Extension have such interesting things they can do from their own office," she said. "It shows that even with budget cuts, Extension can still do what they need to do and provide the same services. It has helped us accomplish things we never thought were possible."

Sylvia works directly with district directors, specialists and program development coordinators to help them prepare their sessions.

UGA was recently inducted into the Wimba Hall of Fame for Excellence in Collaboration. Sylvia, along with Janet Valente of the College of Family and Consumer Sciences-Extension and Robert Ethier of Enterprise Information Technology Services, accepted the award.

Sylvia began working with CAES in November 2000 and with Extension in 2007. She introduced Wimba to save travel dollars, time and personnel hours. According to Wimba's Web site, using the tool helped Extension personnel keep over 23 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted. She is often asked by Wimba to present in their Distinguished Lecture Series and share what UGA Extension has done with the online classroom program.

Helping Extension succeed and reach so many people makes her work worthwhile, she said. Seeing the program grow and helping Extension personnel accomplish their work in creative and diverse ways has been an exciting and rewarding experience for her.

"After the first CAES Dean [Angle] Wimba session, I received a phone call from a small county extension office in south Georgia thanking me," Sylvia said. "They never could have participated in something like that being so far away, and getting to be there live with everyone else really meant a lot to them."

Sylvia is most proud of the positive light shed on Extension through her work with Wimba and the significance of their collective impact.

"What agents are doing in their office, in their county, is having a worldwide impact," she said. "You never know who you're inspiring."

Photo: Janet SylviaIn addition to providing Wimba technical support and training, Sylvia supports the college in other digital media services, such as podcasting, audio recording, consulting for Web-based video projects and working as co-editor of "Tech Tips." Her office is equipped with a sound booth that she has used to record audio for professors' lectures, Extension agents' PSAs and CAES Ambassadors' testimonials. She also provides closed captioning to make content more usable for everyone.

(Written by Allie Byrd, a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Released April 2010.

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