There are about 150 training modules, ranging between five and 10 minutes in length.

To access the training, a user would visit the Beef Cattle Institute website (http://beefcattleinstitute.org/) and select "Animal Care Training" in the lower right corner of the screen. Payment for the modules can be made with a credit card, or an invoice can be mailed to the subscriber.

Each module ends with a short quiz; at least 80 percent of the questions must be answered correctly for a passing grade. The subscriber will then be emailed a certificate with his or her name on it, to document completion of that module.

"Not only do we maintain that diploma for them, electronically," said Thomson, "but we also develop a transcript for each employee or producer that wants to take part in this."

He added that the online modules convey ideas and techniques that books and other printed materials can´t adequately demonstrate.

"I´m not a very good learner from just reading a book," Thomson said. "Audio/visual, to me—if I can not only hear it but see it—is the most effective way to train. And with today´s media, it´s just a no-brainer."

Convenience is key

Thomson said that online delivery saves time and money for both the "teacher" and the "students." Trainers don´t have to spend money on travel or renting facilities and equipment at the training site; students don´t have to postpone important duties at the ranch or farm; or spend money on travel and lodging near the training site.

But perhaps the biggest reason for the online approach?  Convenience.

"We´ve seen producers doing this during the noon hour, we´ve seen them doing this at midnight.  We´ve seen them participating at all times during the day," Thomson said.

He said feed yards set up virtual training centers for their employees, complete with workstations and satellite, or high-speed Internet connections. This allows employees to schedule training sessions into their workdays.

The industry is taking notice of the Beef Quality Assurance program.

The National Cattlemen´s Beef Association has designated BCI as their national center for online training.

While the focus of the BQA program is beef cattle, the site also includes training modules for dairy cattle, and equine care.