Network Literacy

Online networking is now an important opportunity and component of many modern day extension programs.  In extending information and assisting with practice change, it’s often all about the relationships that provide the environment for success.

Network Literacy is an emerging field that is providing people with the means to effectively network online.

Online networking is one way of establishing and/or maintaining the relationships needed to achieve the objectives of extension programs or projects.  The opportunities for online networking are expanding rapidly as people’s connectivity improves and their access to hardware – particularly smart phones that can support the online tools, are improving.

The importance of networking in extension is covered in this article, click here.

Supporting people in developing their network literacy has four key components:

  1. Ensuring they have sufficient connectivity or bandwidth
  2. Ensuring they have the right sort of hardware to support the necessary software
  3. Providing software solutions (tools) that will meet their online networking needs
  4. Upskilling them in the use of online tools


Megabits-per-Second (Mbps) is the unit for measuring your Internet speed.  When assessing your internet speed it most important to assess how you use your connection.  Connectivity is like a water pipe, the more devices (people) that are using it at the same time, the slower the connectivity may be for every device.

Faster speed means there is more connectivity to share.  For example, one person could be streaming a high definition video on good internet speed and no other device gets slowed down, or with limited internet speed such an activity would slow down all devices that are connected.

As a guide, browsing the web requires only 1-2Mbps. Streaming video in high definition may requires around 5Mbps and in slow definition around 3Mbps. To stream video in 4K quality you’ll need about 25Mbps.  Downloading large files will take up pretty much all the capacity that’s available at that time.  For one to one video calls, 1-1.5 Mbps should be enough, but for video conferencing you will need 8Mbps plus, depending on the number of people in the conference. Video conferencing is a key tool to use for online networking.

When choosing an internet speed, it’s far more important to consider how many people will be using your connection, as well was what they’ll be doing.  If you are about to undertake an activity that will place a high demand on your connection, you may need to plan for it.

Steps to Help Improve Connectivity

  • Check whether connection speed is an issue by using one of the Apps
  • Check if packet loss is happening due to WiFit instability; steps in Windows:
    • In the search box in the “Start menu”, type “cmd” and press Enter.
    • In the Terminal, type the following command and hit Enter: ping -n 50

    Steps on a Mac:

    • Open your Applications folder
    • Open the Utilities folder
    • Open the Terminal application
    • In the Terminal, type the following command and hit Enter: ping -c 50

    A good result is zero loss.  If you have loss, the first step is to rule out WiFi unreliability, by connecting your computer directly with an ethernet cable and then retesting.  If that does not help you will need to contact your internet provider support team

  • Reset or test your router or modem
    • Test your router to ensure it is functioning correctly; replace it if needs be. Make sure it is compatible with how your internet is being provided
  • Test your Domain Name Server (DNS) to see how quickly it is responding.  You can run a DIG command to see what your DNS response time is
  • Plan for any high use requirements; turn off other devices and anything that may be open and already using some of your connectivity, so that the entire available connectivity can be applied to your key requirement
  • Scan for viruses
  • Ensure your operating system software is up to date, note that your modem or router will have software as well which may need updating
  • If your internet is provided by WiFi, you could consider a range extender

Online Tools to Help in Project Management and Coordination

There are some great online tools that can assist with communication, extension planning, document sharing, monitoring and review and archiving amongst team members, for more information, click here.

Tools for Online Networking

There a number of online applications that can be used for networking, here is a blog on 3o options, click here.  Two often used ones are:

FaceBook Groups

Facebook groups are a great way to keep connected and share updates and information and they are easy to create.

It is useful that Groups can be set to different privacy settings:  Secret – Private and hidden in a search; Closed – Private and visible in a search; Public – Public and visible in a search.


Meetup is an online application that can be used for group formation and it hosts in person events. Groups have a different topic, size and rules and any user of Meetup can organise a group.

Meeting Online

Video conferencing is a great way to meet virtually. The advantage being you can see people in real time and in doing so read their body language and feel much more engaged and connected than a voice call.  Some key software video conferencing tools are:  GoTo Meeting, Zoom Meetings, Google Hangouts and BlueJeans.

Here are some tips on Video Conferencing etiquette that will make meetings more successful:

  • In webinars or video meetings, you can’t speak over people. If you have an immediate comment or question. Use the chat box
  • In webinars and video meetings, turn your webcam on. Seeing people really adds value to the experience. Be aware of lighting and background
  • If you wouldn’t say it face to face, don’t say it or write it online. Keep your reputation and respect for others. Sometimes you have to be more patient online
  • Be forgiving and validate, it is easy to misinterpret short snippets of conversation
  • Intense, contentious, sensitivities are involved or it’s very important? Visit or call a person individually and follow up, rather than pursue a sensitive issue in a group setting
  • Having a facilitator that records the meeting notes in the chat box, is a great way to keep the flow and context going in the meeting and record meeting notes

The way people are communicating and doing business is changing more and more to having online aspects.  A suite approach to achieving extension outcomes, that involves some online engagement, is fast becoming a preferred and effective approach.

For more information

Social Media Tips and Tools

The Importance of Networks in Extension

Online Tools for Helping in Extension Project Management

Using Social Media to Engage

Social Network Analysis



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