and your IT department
If you are a trainer and starting to use multimedia in the organisation for the first time, you are highly likely to run into a conflict of interest between yourself and IT. Their priority, understandably, is to protect the organisation's network from disruption or contamination. Particular issues you may come across:
If the PCs you wish to use for multimedia based training are connected to the network, IT may well insist that you do not use any disk that installs anything on the PC's hard drive, even though many multimedia packages run a lot better if, say, the player version of the authoring software is sitting on the hard disk and not the CD-ROM. The only way round this may be to use PCs which are completely divorced from the network.
There is an obvious attraction in the idea of distributing training as e-learning via your intranet, rather than physically sending out CD-ROMs. But the sheer size can cause congestion on the network and lengthy delays in downloading stuff - assuming the network will accept large files in the first place. We know one corporate intranet where any file over 2MB is automatically held back and transmitted overnight. Video streaming technology is rapidly overcoming this. Another problem area can be "slim client" networks, where compressed files are expanded by a server before being sent to the desktop; again this can cause congestion. If this is an issue, rather than reduce the quality and richness of your multimedia to the level of old-fashioned text-based CBT, the best solution may be to distribute on CD-ROM. A hybrid CD-ROM can have links via the intranet to pages which you create and keep updated - new products, new legislation, etc., remembering of course the issue of Access to the Network (see above).
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It can be very useful to record who has gone through which training module, how long they took and perhaps record the results of a test. Obviously this helps you maintain individuals' training records and can be very useful where there is a legal obligation to provide certain training - safety or regulated financial products, for example.
To do this you will need some form of front end, through which users access the training. This will write a small amount of data to the multimedia PC's hard disk and possibly either transmit this automatically to Central Training or allow Central Training to interrogate the PC every now and then to see who has studied what. One major car company links up via modem and interrogates the training PCs in each of its dealerships a month or so after a training programme has been distributed on CD-ROM. If staff who should have taken the training have not done so, points are knocked off the dealer's performance rating and pounds knocked off his commission!
A Learning Management System is almost certainly something in which IT need to be involved.
A Learning Management System will manage access to e-learning and other multimedia material. Essentially it is a specialised database, recording who has been trained, how well they performed, etc. An LMS is particularly useful in a regulated industry like financial services, where it is essential to be able to demonstrate that staff have been trained on particular issues.
An LMS and the courseware accessed through it will generally comply with the standards of the AICC (Aviation Industry CBT Committee), which were formulated to provide interoperability between courseware and computer systems - in other words if you bought a compliant package, you knew it would run on your system. Gradually the AICC standards are being replaced by SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model), which goes a step further, by requiring courseware from different suppliers to be available as interlockable "learning objects".
The AICC and SCORM standards are extremely detailed. How far you wish to adopt them is a matter of choice. A simple LMS, based on an SQL database, can be provided by a software developer like Qualtix for around £5000. This will:
A fuller featured LMS, WBT Manager from Feenix, starts at around £10-12,000 and will work with an Oracle database.
We can build a simpler Learning Management System, based on Moodle open source software; this records activity and generates reports but does not have the facility to send chase-up e-mails and the like.
The more features provided (and, where the software is sold on a per user basis, the more employees in your organisation), the more expensive the LMS. Features may include detailed feedback for the instructional designer on how learners approached particular elements of the courseware, or a Virtual Classroom facility to allow learners and trainers to work together simultaneously but remotely.
Knowledge Management technology can also become an issue where the amount of information offered to (and also input by) learners becomes substantial.
Again this is an area where many IT departments have a monopoly. Unfortunately the everyday work applications for which they normally source hardware are much less demanding than multimedia. IT need to know what your requirements will be. If they supply hardware which is too feeble, the result may be video clips that run jerkily or only run in a disappointingly small window, possibly even crash.
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