OSU Extension online help center answers questions

June 13, 2011
Ask an Expert logo
Look for the Ask an Expert logo on your local OSU Extension website. (Design by Erik Simmons.)

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Want to find out what bug is eating your tomato plants? Need to get your backyard soil tested? Interested in turning your homemade jam into a marketable product?

Now you can get answers to those questions and many more from the Oregon State University Extension Service's new online help center, called "Ask an Expert."

"It's as easy as asking your neighbor a question, only in this case you get to ask an expert," said Dave King, the associate provost of OSU Outreach and Engagement.

You can submit online questions in any of OSU Extension's subject areas: gardening, food, agriculture, forestry, coastal and watershed issues, parenting, nutrition, community development and 4-H youth programs. Just go online, type in your question, select your state and county, and click "Ask." You can even attach a photo to help illustrate your problem.

OSU Extension faculty – and, for gardening, a few trained Master Gardeners – answer queries in their field of expertise. Response times vary, but the experts try their best to reply within two business days. Whether you have a basic question about the mystery plant in your front yard, or a more complex question, any query within the areas of expertise will get a response.

King said "Ask an Expert" allows Oregonians to access a wider range of the university's resources and knowledge than ever before. By drawing on Extension's network of faculty and a few highly trained volunteers, the tool will help Extension provide more people with solutions to real-life problems.

"Ask an Expert is a prime example of how OSU Extension is moving into the future by using information technology," he said. "It's applying what we've learned from 100 years of face-to-face problem-solving to the new world of the Internet. Our goal is to provide access to university expertise 24/7."

The Ask an Expert technology was developed by the national eXtension initiative. Since the help center was informally launched on the OSU Extension website two months ago, experts have answered more than 400 questions, according to interim project coordinator Karen Zimmermann. Topics have ranged from what to feed chickens to how long homemade hummus will keep.

Author: Rachel Beck
Source: Dave King, Karen Zimmermann