The extension and outreach function of the University of Saskatchewan began in 1910 through the College of Agriculture: its primary purpose was to provide information on improved farming practices to rural families. In 1913, a Department of Women's Work was established to extend information relating to the home; in 1949, this program became known as “Women's Service” and was carried on in collaboration with the numerous Homemakers Clubs throughout the province. In 1916, the University became responsible for Boys and Girls Club Work; in 1945, the newly formed provincial Department of Agriculture became a partner in administering this youth program; later, District 4-H Councils were formed and local leaders were trained to support the program. In 1967, there were over 3,000 voluntary leaders and almost 13,500 4-H members, a number that declined as the rural population of the province declined. For many years, the Extension Department worked closely with the agricultural societies (seventy-two member societies in 1967) and horticultural societies (thirty-nine member societies in 1967) in the province, and for a period provided their headquarters, with a staff person assigned to their administration.
In the early years, almost all instruction was on a face-to-face basis, with extension and faculty specialists traveling by train to the rural communities. A “Better Farming Train” was sponsored from 1914 to 1922; box cars were used as a moving headquarters for lectures, exhibits, and demonstrations on home and farm improvement; afterwards, an agriculture lecture car was attached to various trains until the early 1930s.
During the 1940s the federal and provincial departments of Agriculture collaborated with the University of Saskatchewan in the “Co-operative Extension Program.” Every third year saw the publication of a “Saskatchewan Guide to Farm Practice” designed to help take confusion out of good farm practice recommendations for farmers and homemakers. After World War II, the need for broader adult education was recognized as important to rural citizens, and University Extension provided a new program, Adult Education Services. For the first time a staff member was employed to offer programming through evening classes, lecture series, conferences, and seminars. A Public Affairs program was also established in collaboration with the Saskatchewan Council of Public Affairs. Increasing demands for programs of continuing education encouraged some colleges to initiate extension-type programs, and work began in 1963 to create a meaningful multi-college extension program. In 1965, a Department of Extension Program was also established at the University's Regina Campus.
During the 1960s a number of faculty of the Extension Division completed graduate studies in adult education and related disciplines, and taught courses in the new interdisciplinary Master of Continuing Education degree program offered by the College of Graduate Studies. This program fostered improved professional competence to many mature students working in adult and continuing education in the province, as well as nationally and internationally. During the latter half of the 20th century, an increasing number of adult education programs and services were transferred from other parts of the campus to the Extension Division. The off-campus academic programs, including Summer School and Inter-session Programs, were among the first. As the Community Colleges and later Regional Colleges were established, the Extension Division administered off-campus courses, primarily first- and second-year university courses, through the provincial college system. At the same time, in response to the increasing demand for off-campus instruction, Extension Division employed instructional designers to work with faculty in a variety of subjects to increase the effectiveness of distance teaching. A later phase was to make courses available on-line to all areas of the province (see Campus Saskatchewan). By the 1990s, the Division included extension credit studies, an instructional design group, a prior learning assessment office, and a second-language instruction unit. An extension press was established, and an office for marketing extension publications was instituted under the name of “U-Learn.” At the beginning of the 21st century, new Extension programs include: Business and Leadership, Humanities and Social Sciences, Agriculture, Food and Horticulture, Community Arts, Environment, Science and Technology, Women's Studies, Community Development, Music in Early Childhood, Career Development, Indigenous Peoples, and Seniors programs.
Harold R. Baker