Exploring the Adaptability of OSU Extension County 4-H Professionals to an All-Digital Setting During the COVID-19 Remote Work Period Based on Selected Variables and Their Relationship to Change Style Preferences

Mark Light
Graduate (PhD)
Jeff King
Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership

In March 2020, work shifted from office to home during the Coronavirus pandemic. While this was possible due to mobile technology, work-life boundaries became even blurrier. OSU Extension professionals not only made the switch to remote work, but they had to adjust to an all-digital 4-H program delivery. This study explored the adaptation of county-based Ohio 4-H professionals to an all-digital environment during the virtual work period of COVID-19 based on selected variables and their relationship to Change Style Preferences. 

The Change Style Indicator assessment was used to sort how each employee ordered along the change preference scale in part one. A follow-up survey assessed adaptations to remote work, digital tools, skills, programs, and strategies used by staff during the all-digital period. 

Key findings included:
1.    Change Style Preferences had no or weak correlations with digital tools, skills, 4-H programming, adaptations, and strategies. 
2.    4-H professionals used this time to learn new skills or improve existing skills. Staff used freed up time by canceled programs to create new digital programming. 
3.    Most employees waited to alter programming due to the constant changes. 
4.    Over half of respondents reached new audiences as a result of 4-H programming that lowered traditional county boundaries. 
5.    4-H professionals will continue to use digital youth development strategies in future programming.

The researcher saw an opportunity to shift research objectives to focus on how the all-digital period during a worldwide pandemic affected 4-H professionals. The focus on this period does not limit future research opportunities. Technology does not go away in the future, as new digital innovations will replace the present ones.
Replicate study across other program areas within Extension. 
Replicate study across other state 4-H programs to compare them to Ohio.
Develop a method for curating digital 4-H content.
Explore ways to introduce technology based on Change Style Preferences.