In order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it’s vital to practice social distancing whenever possible. However, because social distancing requires people to be physically isolated, it can be difficult to keep up with all of one’s wellness, learning and career goals during this time. To combat that, Michigan State University’s Extension program, which brings the university’s resources to people around the state, has expanded hundreds of its programs to be available online to anyone.
“We’re no longer doing any kind of group face-to-face programming or activities, so my team is working very hard to rotate as much of what we do into online opportunities as possible,” said. Dr. Jeff Dwyer, the director of MSU Extension. “There are three things that we’re known for: one is taking the work of a great land grant university to all residents in Michigan, second that we are truly statewide and our people live in the communities where they work, and third that we work in so many different areas — we have over 200 active programs at this point in time.”
He said that this expansion of services will give people all over the state real-time access to anything and everything from yoga classes to webinars on starting a business and homeownership. Each of these events is listed on the site’s virtual events calendar. As of this article’s publication date, there are events scheduled all the way through September.
And for people looking for specific resources and web events, Dwyer said that MSU Extension breaks down its focuses into four areas: health and nutrition, children and youth, agriculture and agribusiness and community development.
“And it’s important for people to know that this is not a page that they’re going to want to look at one time. It’s literally changing every day because dozens and dozens and dozens of people are actively working to get more on this website,” he said.
He added that while the circumstances surrounding this expansion of virtual events is far from ideal, it could be a great way for people across the state to create virtual communities.
“Is it learning from an individual? Absolutely it is. But it’s also an opportunity for us all to be reminded that we’re a part of this much larger community and one of the ways we can be connected is by learning and the things we’re doing together online,” he said, citing an instructional video on jump roping that he participated in recently.
“Which might not sound like a big deal, but I’m almost 60 and I haven’t jumped rope for 50 years. But it was interesting, and she went through some basic movements and went to get fancy and that’s the kind of thing people could do with their family. … We could have a whole neighborhood where people come out on the end of their driveways and jump rope,” Dwyer said. “Those are the things we hope for, too. Some of this is about learning, but some of it is about encouraging people to maintain health and to, wherever possible with appropriate social distancing, stay connected to people.”