February 2000 // Volume 38 // Number 1 // Tools of the Trade // 1TOT1

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Survey Results from Users of a Dairy Management Web Site

To augment the educational opportunities in a program called Dairy Management and Profitability (Dairy-MAP), a Web site was developed for dairy producers, agribusiness personnel, and educators. The Web site had more than 10,000 users from 1995 to 1998. In 1998, a voluntary survey was conducted on the Web site to gather information about users and educational impact. Less than 10% of the site users completed the survey. Only 26% of the Dairy-MAP program participants visited the Web site. A majority of the users (71%) were from the United States, and nearly half (45%) from educational institutions. About half (49%) of the site users indicated that they frequented the site occasionally. Results of the limited number of users in this survey indicated that the Web site was not an effective way to supplement educational workshop materials for most of the program participants.

Robert C. Walker
Computer Specialist
Internet address: RCWalker@ameritech.com

Lisa A. Holden
Assistant Professor
Internet address: LHolden@das.psu.edu

The Pennsylvania State University
Department of Dairy and Animal Science
University Park, Pennsylvania


In 1993, the Dairy Management and Profitability (Dairy-MAP) program began in Pennsylvania to create opportunities for people in the dairy industry to learn new business management skills. The Dairy-MAP program has several components: classroom workshops, on-farm discussion tours, and electronic education materials on a Web site. The face-to-face components of Dairy-MAP have reached over 1,500 dairy producers and agribusiness personnel. In 1995, the Dairy-MAP Web site was developed and has had nearly 10,000 users who logged onto the site. In 1998, a voluntary survey was conducted (a) to determine if the Web site could be used to enhance the face-to-face education in the Dairy-MAP program and (b) to characterize the kinds of users accessing the Web site, and (c) to determine the type and frequency of information being used on the Web site. Results of the survey are summarized in this article.


The survey was completed on a volunteer basis. No rewards were given for completion of the survey. Less than 10% of the total (~10,000) site users completed the survey. The survey was announced to Dairy-MAP alumni in a quarterly newsletter that was mailed to them. The survey was announced to Web users in postings to lists that were related to dairy management and agriculture. A special announcement encouraging Web site visitors to complete the survey was placed at the top of the Dairy-MAP Web site. The survey took about five minutes to complete and users were free to complete all or just part of the survey


Dairy-MAP Program Alumni

Only 26% those that completed the survey were alumni of the Dairy-MAP program. Users who were Dairy-MAP alumni were most frequently using the workshop announcement and calendar features of the Web site and were not using the supplemental management materials very frequently. Because of the low numbers of alumni who accessed the site, using the Web was not useful for providing additional subject information or opportunities for on-line questions and answers about specific topics.

User Characteristics

The following characteristics are based on all of the Web site users. Seventy-one percent of the users were from the United States, with the remaining 29% from countries such as New Zealand, Germany, Japan, and South Africa. The majority, 53%, of users were from commercial Internet providers, while educational institutions brought about 45% of the users on-line. The on-line survey indicated that males make up 57% of users, and the average age of a user is 37 years old. Eighty-four percent of users listed an occupation related to either agriculture or to education.

Use of information

The Web site provided information about the Dairy-MAP program: descriptions of the workshops, current workshop dates, and contact information was available. Newsgroups or bulletin boards were available for users to post questions that could be answered by other users or by Dairy-MAP program staff. There were interactive dairy management worksheets (from the Dairy Initiative at the University of Minnesota), links to other sites with related management information, and an interactive calendar with upcoming agricultural events in Pennsylvania.

Of the users who completed the survey, 20% indicated that they rarely visited the site, 49% indicated that they occasionally visited the site, and 13% indicated that they visited the site monthly. It is obvious that users are after certain types of information. The interactive dairy management worksheets occupy 17% of a users time online. The available publications on the Dairy-MAP Web site occupy 14% of their time. The remaining time spent online at the Dairy-MAP Web site is distributed evenly between calendar, newsgroup, and workshop information.

Summary and Implications

The Web site has not been effective as an educational supplement for the Dairy-MAP program due to low numbers of alumni accessing the site, but the site has provided increased visibility for the Dairy-MAP program outside of Pennsylvania. The survey provided information about user characteristics and about frequency of use of specific parts of the site. However, the low number of users completing the survey compared to the total number of users accessing the site may bias the information collected. Surveys such as this one may be a very effective way to document the impact of a Web site. The survey information needs to be tied directly to Web site use and tabulated automatically. Users should receive some sort of reward, access to additional information for example, for completing questions about usefulness of Web site elements.