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University of Guelph School of Environmental Design and Rural Development


Exploring the future

The establishment of the Department of Extension Education in 1959 came about mainly because of support from the Ontario Department of Agriculture (ODA), especially the Extension Branch. The ODA had extension people in each county and district who were almost, without exception, graduates of the OAC. These people were specialists in various areas; Soil Science, Crop Science, Animal Science, Poultry Science but had little training in how to teach. They felt that with increasing scientific knowledge available, they would be more effective in their work if they had some formal training in the methods and techniques to help them in the dissemination of information.
Recently, the name of the program was changed to Capacity Development and Extension.

Today, Capacity Development and Extension provide courses and research work for a broad range of students with backgrounds in Politics, International Development, Engineering, Sociology and many others. The diversity of the program allows a rich mixture of ideas and viewpoints.

The mission of the Capacity Development and Extension program is to enhance the quality of life of rural people and communities, acknowledge and respect a diversity of needs and perspectives, through the provision of educational opportunities, interdisciplinary research, and community outreach.

The program aims:

  • to provide a learner-centred learning community which is grounded in practice-based theories as they relate to rural extension processes and communication technology. 
  • to promote independent and interdependent learning among program participants
  • to provide opportunities for learners to explore a variety of approaches to research and methods so that they will be able to make informed choices of appropriate research methods and techniques. 
  • to provide an environment in which issues of social justice, as they relate to rural extension studies, can be discussed in an open manner, acknowledging and respecting at all times the diversity of perspectives on these issues. 

The Capacity Development and Extension Programs, together with the Rural Planning and Development Programs and the Landscape Architecture Programs form the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development. Each school has its own unique focus and together they represent a strong advocate for rural concerns and study.

Undergraduate program

Capacity Development and Extension offers a Minor in rural extension studies.  Capacity Development and Extension also offers a Certificate in Communication Process through distance education.

MSc Program

Capacity Development and Extension offer a professionally oriented program leading to the MSc degree. The program covers a broad range of topics including rural extension theory, adult learning and development, capacity development, interpersonal communication, communication technology and international extension.  A variety of learning formats are offered by the program including independent study, seminars, a practicum, international courses and research colloquia.

International Development Studies Collaborative Program

Capacity Development and Extension participate in the collaborative international development studies (CIDS) program. Students take a minimum of 2.5 course credits in the program and a minimum of 2.5 credits in international development studies. The MSc degree for students in this program will have the specialist designation international development studies. Please consult the International Development Studies listing for a detailed description of the collaborative program including the special additional requirements for each of the participating departments.

PhD in Rural Studies

Capacity Development and Extension is a major participant in the PhD in Rural Studies. This program provides opportunities for students to be advised by faculty in thisschool. For further information please go to

Community outreach

Our faculty and students are involved in a number of research and outreach projects in Canada and around the world. These are some selected projects and areas of research.

Canadian Research Projects

  • The Challenges of a Changing Environment: A Study of the Educational Needs of Leaders in Rural Volunteer Organizations
  • Improvisation, Collaboration and Communities in Dialogue
  • Communities as Learning System
  • Negotiating Rural Futures: A Study of the Relationship Between Rural Communities and Boards of Education During Periods of School Consolidation
  • Farming Systems Research
  • Partnership, Accessibility, Connectivity, Transformation Strategies (PACTS)
  • Farming Systems Research: Social Indicators

Communication Technology

Members of the department have played a key role in research and development of computer mediated communication (CMC), and computer assisted learning. The use of the Internet, World Wide Web and its implications for distance education in rural areas, nationally and internationally is a growing component of the program.

Video is a group and community process tool, and the department has its own recording and editing equipment to facilitate teaching and learning at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The communication technology stream is noted for its cooperative development and research activities around the world.

  • Electronic Extension Platforms
  • Don Snowden Program for Development Communication
  • Internet Use in Rural Areas
  • Gender and ICTs for Development

International Research/Development Projects

Capacity Development and Extension has amassed considerable research, teaching and project management experience in other countries including Russia, Bolivia, Brazil, India, Egypt, Ghana, Uganda, Senegal and Cameroon. Projects in these countries have looked at rural quality of life, agricultural extension practices, communication technology (including Internet connectivity) and distance education programs. Students may have the opportunity to become involved in future projects.

  • Distance Learning Project in Seed Technology in India
  • Diploma in Tropical Agriculture Through Distance Education/Independent Study in Cameroon
  • Distance Learning Project for Agriculture and Rural Development in Egypt
  • Farm Management/Distance Learning Project in Russia
  • Resource Mobilization for Rural Radio in Africa
  • Gender and Agriculture in the Information Society


University of Guelph
School of Environmental design and Rural Development
Capacity Development and Extension
119 Landscape Architecture
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1

Tel: (519) 824-4120 ext 53408

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