June 2001 // Volume 39 // Number 3 // Research in Brief // 3RIB4

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Evaluating Pork Producers' Acceptance of Distance Education Media

A booth was developed to expose pork producers to eight distance educational media. Booth survey results indicate producers had the greatest previous exposure to videotape. After exposure in the booth, producers were willing to try all media except chat rooms and multi-media kits. Producers (86%) prefer face-to-face educational programs to distance education. However, 87% of the producers indicated that distance education is the future for information access, and 84% of the producers felt that their questions could be adequately answered through distance education. These results suggest that exposure to distance education media is a limiting factor to the media's acceptance for educational program delivery.

Stephanie DeCamp
Extension Educator
Internet Address: stephanie.decamp@ces.purdue.edu

Brian Richert
Swine Extension Specialist
Internet Address: brichert@purdue.edu

Wayne Singleton
Swine Extension Specialist
Internet Address: wsinglet@purdue.edu

Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana

Neal Vines
Director of Information and Communication Technologies
College of Agriculture, Pennsylvania State University
University Park, Pennsylvania
Internet Address: ntv1@psu.edu

Greg Slipher
Director of Industry Services and Development
Indiana Pork Producers Association
Indianapolis, Indiana
Internet Address: gslipher@inpork.org


Distance education is any instructional situation in which the learner is separated in time or space from the point of origin. It is characterized by limited access to the educator and other learners (Heinich, Molenda, Russell, & Smaldino, 1996). This allows educators to reach a more diverse and geographically dispersed audience, learners who are not accessible through traditional classroom or seminar instructional settings. Participation in this type of education can be self-paced situation and can take place wherever the learner prefers.

Because of the continuum of change within the swine industry, producers have developed a need for educational resources to help them survive in their fast-changing industry. One way to provide these swine producers with the material they need is through distance education, where the educational materials are provided in a more flexible manner. A survey conducted by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) concluded that producers are not willing to travel more than 60 miles to receive educational training (National Pork Producers Council, 1995). Distance education can be delivered to the producers so that they will not have to leave their production sites to be educated, eliminating the loss of additional production hours during travel to gain the knowledge.

Distance education media seem to be a very logical way to solve the educational needs of the swine industry, but some question whether distance education will be accepted by pork producers. Purdue Extension and the Indiana Pork Producers Association joined forces to expose pork producers to the technologies and media of distance education and to display educational material that had previously been developed for distance education.

Materials and Methods

The distance education information was presented to the producers through a tradeshow booth at the 1999 Indiana Pork Conference. In a recent national poll, respondents rated tradeshows as the most useful way of gathering information (Cain, 1999). The booth was located in a 10' x 20' space in a random area of the tradeshow, mixed in among industry suppliers. This allowed the introduction of educational media to the producers in a "non-traditional" education setting.

Producers were exposed to eight different distance education media types: CD-ROM (CD), self-study manuals (SSM), video (V), multi-media kits (MMK), video conferencing (VC), e-chat rooms (CHAT), e-mail (EM), and World Wide Web (WWW). These were available for hands-on interaction for the producers attending the tradeshow. The booth was designed in a horseshoe-shaped layout to allow continual flow through the booth and also allow all producers to see each media type, try those they chose to, and look at the information provided.

Adult learners like to have material to take away from an educational situation for later review (R. J. Russell, personal communication, 1998). To give the producers more information about distance education, a handout was developed for them to take with them and read at their leisure. The handout gave the producers general information about distance education, media used in distance education, and contacts for more information about distance education.

To display the cost benefit of distance education, a "Money Saving Scenario" consisting of Distance Education vs. Live Face-To-Face Education costs was developed (Table 1). This scenario was based around "Employee Management," a video series available from NPPC. The distance education data were taken from the 1998 NPPC price listing for educational material. The Live Face-To-Face education cost was derived from the amount it would take the Extension specialist at Purdue University to deliver the quantity of information found in the video series used in the scenario, along with the estimated cost to replace the labor loss at the farm and travel costs when the employee would leave for the training.

Table 1
Distance Education Money-Saving Scenario*

Employee Management Training
Distance Education Live Face to Face
Video $85.00 Registration $40.00
Shipping and Handling $15.00 Travel $38.40
  ______ Labor Loss $75.00
Total $100.00 Total $153.40
* Scenario shows that Distance Education could provide a $53.40
savings compared to Live Face-to-Face education

A survey instrument was developed to help determine the producers' previous use of distance education and what they would be willing to try as a result of further exposure to different distance educational media. The survey consisted of 11 questions. The questions covered demographics, pre- and post-exposure to distance education media, monetary contribution to educational programs, ranking of media types by preference, evaluation of whether specific questions could be answered adequately through distance education, and distance education as the future for information access.

Upon completing the survey, the producers were able to enter a drawing for Purdue University apparel, by submitting their surveys and detaching an entry blank from the bottom of the surveys. There were 38 surveys completed by people attending the tradeshow. Chi-square analysis and Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel statistics were used to determine associations and differences (SAS, 1996). The surveys collected were divided into three different categories: producers, allied industries, and other. Thirty-one producers completed the survey, as did two allied industry and five other.


The medium with the greatest amount of previous exposure was video, compared to the other media displayed (P<.05). Only 25% of the small producers (<100 sows) had previous exposure to e-mail, compared to 60% of the larger producers (P<.05). After exposure to the media in the distance education booth, producers were willing to try a majority of the media except e-chat rooms and multi-media kits (P<.06 and P<.004, respectively). However, producers continued to prefer video for distance educational delivery, with e-mail, World Wide Web, and CD-ROM closely grouped as a secondary preference (Table 2). Producers previously exposed to one type of medium are more likely to try different media (Table 3), and, once producers were exposed to a specific medium they would continue to use that particular medium (Table 4). Additionally, previous exposure to CD-ROM and e-mail nearly doubled the likelihood of producers trying World Wide Web (P<.05).

Table 2
Producer Ranking of Distance Education Media*

Factor Mean Producer Ranking
V 2.82
EM 3.84
WWW 3.97
CD 4.00
SSM 4.57
CHAT 5.21
VC 5.22
MMK 6.20
*V=video, EM=e-mail, WWW=World Wide Web, CD=CD-ROM, SSM=self-study manuals, CHAT=e-chat rooms, VC=video conferencing, and MMK=multi-media kits.

Table 3
Pork Producers' Willingness to Try a New Medium After Exposure to
Another Medium*

Post-Exposure to: Will Try Significance
EM WWW P<.008
EM CHAT P<.045
CD CHAT P<.019
CD SSM P<.036
SSM CD P<.043
SSM MMK P<.048
* EM=e-mail, CD=CD ROM, CHAT=Chat Room, SSM=Self-Study Manual,
MMK=Multi Media Kits, and WWW=World Wide Web.

Table 4
Pork Producers' Willingness to Continue to Use a Particular Medium*

Post-Exposure to: Will Try Significance
CD CD P<.039
VC VC P<.011
SSM SSM P<.002
* CD=CD ROM, VC=Video Conference, SSM=Self-Study Manual.

Producers were given the opportunity to rank Face-to-Face at Purdue University, Face-to-Face at Regional Site, and Distance Education Media for delivery methods. Producers preferred live face-to-face training with Purdue University Specialists over distance education (Table 5). However, 87% of the producers indicated that distance education would be the future mode for information access (P<.001). Also, 84% of the producers felt their questions would be adequately answered (P<.001) through distance education.

Table 5
Preferred Mode of Delivery*

Delivery Type Preferred, % Mean Rank
Purdue University 48.6 1.78
Regional 37.5 2.0
Distance Education 13.9 2.38
* P<.001.

Producers were asked what were the limiting factors causing them not to implement distance education into their current situation. There were four components of this question: technical knowledge, technical equipment, technology expense, and technology accessibility. Overall, producers did not indicate any of these components were a limitation in implementing the technology needed for distance education in their personal situations (Table 6). However, small producers (<100 sows) did indicate one limitation for implementation, the lack of technical equipment (P<.05).

Table 6
Factors Limiting Distance Education Implementation

Factor of Limitation No Limitation % Significance
Technical Knowledge 84 P<.001
Technical Equipment 68 P<.023
Technology Expense 58 P<.330
Technology Accessibility 74 P<.004

Finally, producers were asked how much they would pay for distance education programs. Most producers would prefer to have distance education for free (48%; P<.001), while 42% of the producers would pay $1-50, and 10% of the pork producers would pay more than $50 for distance education programs.


These results indicate a justification for using distance education in Extension programming. The producers displayed a willingness to try the technology after being exposed to it and given the opportunity to have a hands-on experience with the different distance education media. They also indicated that there were no limitations for implementing the technology in their personal situations, thus suggesting that distance education has more of an exposure problem than a technology problem.

Producers were asked to rank their preference as to how they would prefer to have their educational training delivered. Even though it was indicated that distance education is not the preferred delivery method of educational material, it is an acceptable form of information access. Distance education has the potential of becoming a preferred delivery method once the producers feel comfortable learning on their own and seeing the benefits of not having to travel and lose those production hours. To achieve this level of comfort, educators and producers are going to have to work together to help close the familiarity gap caused by technological advances.

Although approximately one-half of the producers are currently not willing to pay for distance education, once they have greater exposure to the technology, they should experience the cost savings that distance education has to offer. This is especially true when this educational technology can be used in their own place at their own pace, allowing the producers to get education without sacrificing production hours.

According to the specific cost scenario, there is a savings of approximately $53.40 with distance education, excluding the value of the lost managerial expertise for one day. In addition, the distance education media may be reused by many employees, while a live face-to-face seminar is a one-time occurrence.


The lack of producer exposure to situations involving distance education could be a reason for the lack of delivery preference for distance education. Producers know their questions will be answered, but may lack confidence in learning on their own or may feel they lack self-motivation to complete a program at their own pace in their own place.

Finally, the producers may feel they will lose contact with the educator. As educators develop materials for distance education, they need to reassure learners; including a contact name, phone number, e-mail address, and perhaps a contact person photo on the developed material will reduce the learners' fear of losing contact with the experts.

Another way to expose producers to distance educational media would be through county or area meetings. The county educators, with the help of state specialists via distance education, could host technology nights to expose the producers to the media and give them an opportunity for hands-on experience. The county or area meetings would be ideal for the comfort level of the producers, due to their local interactions with one another. Also, including the specialists reassures learners that they are still important to the educators and that they will not be losing total contact with the experts.


The authors thank the Indiana Pork Producers for their financial support and assistance in completing this project.


Cain, S. (1999, March). Get your money's worth at tradeshows. On Target [On-line]. Available: http://persephone.agcom.purdue.edu/AgCom/library/ontarget/archive/ot3_99.html

Heinich, R., Molenda, M., Russell, J., & Smaldino, D. (1996). Instructional Media and the New Technologies of Instruction. 5th ed. New York: Macmillan.

National Pork Producers Council. (1995). Pork Producers Competencies. National Pork Producers Council National Study. Des Moines, IA.

SAS. (1996). SAS User's Guide: Statistics (Version 6.12 Ed.). SAS Inst. Inc., Cary, NC.