Published on 05/21/13

UGA Cooperative Extension and the Georgia Department of Agriculture recognized by Wimba developer

By Merritt Melancon

University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and the Georgia Department of Agriculture recently received international recognition for their efforts to help Georgians develop safe produce and products for farmers markets.

Blackboard, the company that supports the online classroom program Wimba, recognized the team that developed the online training program with a Blackboard Catalyst Award for Staff Development.

The global award honors those members of the community who use Blackboard solutions to create, support and enhance faculty and staff development skills, providing a better organization-wide learning experience.

Janet Sylvia, a digital media specialist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, produced two Wimba training sessions to tackle new food safety issues in Georgia. Judy Harrison, professor and UGA Extension foods specialist with the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences; GaDOA Regulatory Affairs Manager Craig Nielsen; and Retail Program Manager Bruce Varnadoe provided content for the training sessions.

UGA Cooperative Extension agents originally used the trainings as a source to help them answer consumers’ questions about best food safety practices at farmers markets and a set of new Georgia laws that addressed home production of retail foods.

The collaboration proved successful, and the training session on the Cottage Foods Regulations was later archived, captioned for accessibility and published through UGA Cooperative Extension and the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s social media channels. By sharing the content, Sylvia’s team increased the reach of their work from 53 Extension agents to more than 800 individuals across the state.

The training supplemented issued print materials that detail the small farmers’ and food artisans' responsibilities for food safety. Polls show that the training significantly increased participants understanding of food safety practices and Georgia’s food safety rules.

This is the third project that Sylvia has been involved in that has been recognized by Wimba and Blackboard. In 2010, UGA Extension and the CAES received the University System of Georgia Wimba Innovator Award. In the same year, Wimba named UGA (as a whole) to the Wimba Hall of Fame for Excellence in Collaboration — specifically citing UGA Extension’s use of the web-based classroom for distance staff training.

“Catalyst Award winners represent some of today's finest examples of leveraging technology to improve the education experience,” said Ray Henderson, chief technology officer and president of academic platforms at Blackboard. “Each winner has established best-in-field approaches in critical areas including online learning, course development, school communication and mobile education. We congratulate the winners on their vision and their excellent work, and we celebrate this accomplishment with them.”

Members of the team will be honored alongside other Blackboard Catalyst Award winners during BbWorld, Blackboard’s annual user conference to be held in July in Las Vegas, Nev.

The archived Cottage Foods Regulations training is available to the public and attracting new users at and at

Blackboard is a global leader in enterprise technology and innovative solutions that improve the experience of millions of students and learners around the world every day. Blackboard’s solutions allow thousands of higher education, K-12, professional, corporate and government organizations to extend teaching and learning online.

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension before joining Terry College.

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