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Using virtual classroom training to keep your key employees happy, on the job and up to date in the skillls required. This article introduces IWBT or Interactive Web Based Training. Mr. Laubert has implemented IWBT now for the last 7 years and explains the benefits and requirements. This is a case study of how IWBT helped a local company serve its vendors and thier customers.
Web Based Training, Virtual Training, Computer Based Training, WBT, CBT
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With the constantly changing economy, it’s hard to judge from day to day how much or even if you should invest in training. Even through you know that training improves productivity, morale and retention of the key employees.
Training is expensive and it is an investment in your most precious resource, your employees. Training can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year per employee. How you may ask? Well consider these associated costs. Besides the actual cost of training itself, you have the normal travel, meals, lodging and phone expenses, which in itself can become quite expensive and is often a reason not to send someone to training. But you also have what are called lost opportunity cost, the cost of not being able to do business as normal when a key employee is away for training. Putting projects on hold or not accepting any new projects, overtime, additional temporary manpower that needs training so they can cover while the employee is away for training and overtime when the employee comes back so that he or she can catch up on everything that was missed while they were gone. Now add the cost of high turn over due to lack of advancement, poor job satisfaction, poor morale, money, and very little training, that training you did manage to get into the budget, leaves when the employee leaves. Some company’s try to manage this with contracts and other requirements but you still lose out with reduced productivity, travel and lost opportunity cost.
What is the result of all of this? Less money spent on training, less productivity, higher payroll, lower morale and even higher turnover which results in more money spent on recruiting. Not to mention reducing the incoming business so that you can handle the current jobs with the workforce you have. So what are you suppose to do? Budgets and personnel shortages won’t allow you to train everyone. Timing issues related to training itself can take months, even if you have the budget, to arrange and get the people trained. You still need to service your customers and look for new business. The answer lies in finding training that is inexpensive, requires no travel, can be scheduled around your needs and uses a method that everyone can learn from. I know this may sound like Web Based Training and in fact it is close, it is called Interactive Web Based Training (IWBT).
Training can be broken down into interactive and non-interactive. Non-interactive are things like books, CBT, WBT, audio and video tape course. The employee has to be very highly motivated to complete these and the emphasis is on the employee to research answer to things they don’t understand. It is cheaper, and meets the requirements of no travel and scheduling, but not everyone is motivate nor can they learn from this method. Many people do not learn well without interaction with a group or at least the instructor. Interactive learning requires someone to teach others. Things like classroom training, on the job training and mentoring are good examples of interactive learning. Interactive learning is expensive. It requires time and resources of multiple people, possible travel, scheduling and a high chance of lost opportunity cost. However, everyone learns better this way and they do not need to be as motivated to learn as with non-interactive learning. Training usually occurs at a preset place and time with someone ‘feeding’ them the information. Interactive training also involves more of the senses such as sound, sight, touch and smell, so people retain more of the information than if they just read a book or complete a CBT/WBT course.
How is IWBT the answer? IWBT is instructor led training (interactive learning) conducted in a virtual classroom (VC) instead of a physical classroom. Using a VC we can perform most of the functions that are used in the classroom, including whiteboards, presentations, videos, demonstrations, questions and answers, and group interaction. In addition, VC usually have a better support structure to aid in retaining and learning after the class is over. These may include, email, recorded sessions, bulletin boards and chat rooms, all designed to help the students retain and continue the learning process after class. I think the recorded session are of the greatest value. These sessions are a streaming video capture of what went on in the VC during the class. All voice, text, presentations and video are captured and stored on a server so that the student can review the class at anytime. Making it a great way to review just prior to having to use a new feature or function that was taught but not implemented right away at work or for a client. These recorded sessions can also be used to teach others that may not have been able to attend the class and to reinforce other non-interactive learning methods. From the instructor stand point VC also offer a greater range of questioning technique which allow me to see how all students are doing not just those that like to answer questions. For example, in a classroom, once a question has been answered correctly, I have no way of checking to see if everyone really knew the answer. In a VC, each student answers via a response box that only I can see who answered what. That way each student answer is recorded and the instructor knows whether they can move on or really need to cover the subject in more detail before moving on. This is also a great tool.
IWBT also is usually cheaper, easier to schedule, has neither associated travel cost nor does it have the associated lost opportunity cost that standard interactive learning does. Part of the savings in cost also comes from the fact that IWBT does not require a physical classroom or student equipment to maintain. IWBT also allows for better utilization of the instructors time. Technical experts are expensive, easily costing thousands of dollars a day. And they are limited by the physical size of the classroom and their ability to control the number of students they can teach at one time. This cost is part of why instructor led training is so expensive. IWBT has no real limit on the number of students, no physical limits on the classroom size, no travel cost for the instructor and no equipment overhead to pay for. Students in an IWBT course can come from anywhere. I have had students from Austria, Japan, India, France, Russia, Brazil and Canada in my classes.
As you can see IWBT can offer some valid benefits for your organization, less expensive, no lost opportunity cost, better morale, no travel, better learning environment, better retention and learning capabilities, easier scheduling, and follow-on support not found in most interactive learning situations.
I have been teaching IWBT classes for several years now. I have taught courses on computer hardware installation and troubleshooting, programming, operations, administration, networking, security, and business management. Currently I am working with Compass Technologies, Inc of Exton, PA. Compass Technologies is an access control manufacturer who markets a product that incorporates both hardware and software. They market the Compass 5E and SafeAxis products through business partners around the country. This is an ideal case study for IWBT. Compass has a large number of widely dispersed business partners that have a high turnover of employees, using a fairly technical set of hardware and software that integrates with computer networks. Traditional interactive training is very expensive and not being utilized to it fullest extent because of the cost involved for the business partners, even though Compass keeps the cost of the courses low. Compass wants to increase the training effectiveness, reduce cost and get more people trained which will reduce the amount of support required and improve customer satisfaction for the business partners. To accomplish this they are implementing a IWBT solution from EDT Learning called iLinc. Once iLinc is fully operational, it will allow their business partners to choose training via instructor led classroom training, instructor led web based training, web based training and via a set streaming videos. Courses being offered via IWBT include the standard classroom courses in installation and operations of both the SafeAxis and Compass 5E products, Using the Windows Operating System, Using the Linux Operating System, and an Advance System Design and Troubleshooting course for the security architect at the business partners.
The iLinc product also offers a virtual meeting room capabilities that Compass and it’s business partners can use to announce the rollout of new products or meet with the executives to discuss business issues. Compass can also use these meeting rooms to meet with the national sales representatives, saving thousands of dollars in travel and lost sales time. Support will also benefit from the IWBT. iLinc provides Compass with the ability to take control (with the users permission) the computer that the student is using or to allow the student to take control of the supports machine to assist in troubleshooting a problem. This means that Compass Technical Support will be able to watch the steps, and messages that appear on the clients PC greatly reducing the amount of time required to identify and correct a problem, providing of course that the client has Internet connectivity at that time.
Compass is also using IWBT to help train the business partner’s clients. They will have streaming video segments of different features and how to use them for the Compass products. These video segments will be downloadable by the clients so that they can better understand the features of the Compass products. Reducing the support and training requirements for the business partners and increasing the value of selecting Compass products for the customers.
When everything is up and operational, Compass hopes to improve business partner and customer satisfaction, improve awareness of the products and capabilities, reduce the cost of supporting both business partners and clients and improve the effectiveness of the over all training program and it’s utilization. I think you can too.
IWBT is a great way to improve your training regardless of the size of the organization.