Skill training systems are a growing area of computer based training. They combine the power of a wide range of electronic media without involving the cost and sophistication of some eLearning applications.
The aim is to build powerful multimedia presentations quickly and efficiently but for very little cost. They are produced by a company's own employees, without the need for external IT professionals. 100% of the effort is applied to the content with absolutely no programming required. The interactive training package produced can be very effective and the finished product is easy to use and cheap to distribute.
This approach was first used by Boeing in 1994, but in recent years the falling price equipment required has made it a feasible proposition for even the smallest companies. Results have been impressive with training courses being provided in around 10% of the time that was previously required. The technique can be cost effective for jobs of any size and with such a small initial investment required, it could bring significant financial rewards.
Computer-based training (CBT) is a general term that covers a wide range of different facilities and techniques. The push in recent years has been to supply web-based eLearning via LMS systems but the bandwidth restrictions have meant the performance of most of the programs was severely limited. As a result, companies are now tending to use web based learning if a course has to be delivered online while staying with the more powerful, reliable and cost-effective CD based training, if not.
Experience has also shown that rarely are traditional training courses totally replaced by eLearning. Instead, blended systems combining the benefits of each technique are providing the greatest benefits.
Good training requires effective communication. This is the life blood of multimedia software which includes all the necessary tools e.g. video, speech picture and text files; all supplied exactly when the user requires and at whatever speed or frequency they desire.
Previously the problem has always been the time required to produce these programs. To make them cost effective it was necessary to remove the need for custom software designers and allow the programs to be produced on site, by a company's own employees.
STAGE 1 - The Software
Engineering Adventures have developed a simple program that will allow a company's internal employees to produce their own multimedia training packages. These programs only require the user to plan the layout they require and then produce the necessary text, video, and picture files to be included. The whole package can be put together on a site without the need for external assistance and in a surprisingly short period of time.
The finished training programs are simple to operate and require no training or previous computer experience.
STAGE 2 - Planning
The most important part of any training package is the information held within it. This is best decided by experienced training personnel with a good working knowledge of the subject being covered. The first stage, therefore, is to plan the exact content of the program and decide what new material is required. Much of the information may already exist although the multimedia capability should mean that a number of additional facilities that can be added.
STAGE 3 - Content
The software can deliver a range of different media in a number of different combinations. Producing this information will probably be the most time-consuming part of the project although it need only be produced once, and can always be added to or upgraded at a later date. You should think of this type of training as a library of different modules that can be built up gradually, without the need to risk one large investment.
Another important factor with this type of training is that the information is provided by people who understand the work. They will communicate directly with their peer group and consequently many of the traditional barriers to good communication will be broken down.
A company's existing PowerPoint slide shows or Adobe manuals can also be easily accessed from within the program to provide a comprehensive and powerful range of facilities.
- Video files.
Computer quality video need not be made in Hollywood. In fact the whole approach to this type of training is to keep costs to a minimum and concentrate on the content rather than the frills. A hand-held camcorder can provide a very good a quality picture and there are several low-cost and easy to use software packages capable of processing the results.
- Picture files.
The price of digital cameras and scanners has reduced dramatically in recent years and this has made it possible to produce computer quality pictures very quickly and easily. A simple bitmap-editing program will allow you to format these pictures into the exact size you require.
- Text files
Information to accompany the graphic files can be provided by including simple text files. These can be produced in any word processing packages and need only be saved with a suitable file name for the program to find them.
- Sound files
Narrated sound files can be added to make the training package much more pleasant and effective. Again this need not be studio quality but can be recorded straight into the computer through a £20 microphone. It is worth remembering that research has shown that spoken content is one of the most effective ways to get the message across.
STAGE 4 - Building the program
With the information collated and the planning complete, it is a very simple exercise to drag and drop the files into the program. Each piece of information is placed in a directory relative to the main program and a simple menu list is used to access the files in the order they are required.
No specialist IT skills are required for this process. At most, one-day training would be beneficial although every IT departments should be able to understand the procedure.
STAGE 5 - Training Delivery
A significant advantage with this type of training is that it can be delivered remotely, without the need for anyone to be present except the student. Training is effectively on a one to one basis and the user can progress at a speed that suits themselves, returning to areas they did not fully understand or quickly passing over items with which they are already familiar.
The finished product can be distributed very cheaply by CD-ROM, DVD, LAN, Intranet or the Internet.
Quite simply the benefits from building low cost-skill training packages in this way are quite awesome. For once the cost and lead times should not put anyone off.