Abstract

On-line training, delivered over a network or via CD-ROM, is an attractive approach to improve employee performance and service quality at lower lifetime cost. In practice, however, the development, delivery, and maintenance of on-line training pose definite risks. The implementation of well-designed strategies, such as the use of common standards and guidelines, can contain these risks by improving the quality of online training, reducing the cost, and increasing the timeliness of development and maintenance. The successful implementation of these strategies requires close coordination between business units and the building of corporate intelligence. Expertise in areas such as instructional design, project management, electronic document management, and multimedia development is also needed for the long-term success of on-line training initiatives.

Introduction

The escalating need for a skilled workforce and high employee turnover are often associated with a growing interest in on-line training. The number of organizations that are placing on-line training materials on their intranets is steadily growing and much of future training can be expected to be digital. Among the advantages commonly contributed to on-line training are:

  • uniform, current, and just-in-time training for large numbers of dispersed learners;

  • shorter training periods; and,

  • lower lifetime cost.

Companies interested in on-line training soon discover however, that this form of training poses its own set of problems and limitations:

  • not all training is appropriate for delivery in on-line environments;

  • on-line training materials often contain expensive features that are not instructionally sound;

  • multimedia development and maintenance is expensive;

  • typical multimedia does not facilitate easy reuse of information unless explicitly designed to do so;

  • rapid change of delivery technology and incompatibility between platforms and data standards may prevent learners from accessing on-line training;

  • difficulties with version control may cause multimedia to quickly become outdated and,

  • with easy access to training, content and test security becomes an issue.

Despite these risks, several on-line training initiatives were launched in our business units. In the Fall of 1995, we began to investigate the current status of multimedia development and alternatives for the best use of training resources. Data generated through this research revealed a need to seamlessly integrate different on-line training projects and related documentation. Coordination of objectives, reuse of assets, and maintainability emerged as important considerations. In addition, quality assurance measures for on-line training and subcontracting standards must be developed and implemented. Finally, findings suggested that business units must share institutional memory of best practices and multimedia production initiatives must be designed to render consistent results (Fig. 1).

The findings of this investigation led to recommendations that included:

  • the migration of selected sections of training curricula to the internet;

  • a review of expectations of training outcomes; and,

  • the establishment of "a small shared-resource group with skills in instructional design, project management, and multimedia technologies."

This group would establish and implement standards, strategies, and guidelines for the development, delivery, and maintenance of on-line training materials.

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