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There is a 'Write' Way to Train More Effectively: Audiographics.

Your organization has adopted teleconferencing for business meetings. But what about other corporate uses that can be used to further justify the system? Many companies are answering this question in one word: Teletraining.

After a prolonged infancy, corporate teleconferencing has come of age. Nowhere is this more appareat than in the rapid growth of audiographics. Five years ago, few products existed, and case studies of typical users were scarce. Today, many vendors offer audiographic products in a wide range of prices and options. Users are happy to tell their stories.

Audiographic (audio plus graphics) devices allow persons at geographically distant locations to share real-time written work, diagrams, line drawings and even still images. Examples include electronic blackboards and white boards, lap boards or graphics tablets, freeze-frame (slow-scan) television and the newer computer-based systems.

With the exception of a few academic networks, most audiographic systems evolve to meet a need for improved administrative meetings. Typical uses include project meetings involving engineering or technical specialists, the development of creative art, such as package design, product styling or media-campaign themes; and problem-solving between distant company locations, such as a production line and corporate headquarters.

For companies with a significant investment in audiographic equipment, it makes good sense to seek out new applications to maximize system use. A logical extension of this communications tool is to meet the growing need for corporate training.

For the most part, the delivery of corporate training has remained unchanged for more than 25 years. Although the subjects taught certainly have undergone cycle and the audiovisual training aids have become more sophisticated, corporate training is still basically delivered in a hotel or training room in one location with a face-to-face trainer leading a group of trainees.

With the stepped-up pace of modern business, it is time to ask if this traditional format, while comfortable and familiar to us, is the best answer to meet modern training demands.

From six years of experience in using teleconferencing for training--teletraining--I believe that audiographic teleconferencing offers an affordable, viable option. No apologies are necessary when adopting this delivery mode. All recent research by academic entities and the federal government shows no significant difference in learning between teletraining and traditional face-to-face training. Teletraining is often a more-effective way to learn.

A recent example is the management training developed and delivered by us for a federal government agency. In July 1984, the decision was made to conduct a required middle-management course using an existing audiographic network. The four-and-a-half-day course was converted from a face-to-face lesson plan to teletraining in 90 days. Course content was typical of corporate offerings and included managing change, creative problem-solving, leadership through communications, intergovernmental relations, the political process and the management environment.

Thirteen class sites stretched from Oregon to New Jersey and from Minnesota to Texas. The 135 trainees were located in all four time zones. Nine presenters addressed the group, originating their teaching from Washington, DC, and Denver.

Equipment consisted of two Quorum audio bridges, thirteen Quorum microphones and 13 Gemini electronic blackboards provided by AT&T Information Systems. (Similar results could be achieved utilizing the numerous white board and graphics tablet systems now available.) Despite the large number of locations and inexperienced trainees, no major difficulties were encountered with the equipment. The full four-and-a-half-day program was delivered as planned to all 135 students.

To take advantage of the added audiographic dimension, the consultants modified the existing lesson plans to include activities with the electronic blackboard. These included team reporting, problem-solving, case studies and role plays. Taking an active role in the session kept student interest high and helped to make the technology transparent.

The key objective of effective learning at a reduced cost wa met. Teletraining costs were $325 less per student when compared with traditional classroom delivery of the same material. How Teletraining Can Help

Let's see how audiographic teletraining can meet need common to nearly every American business.

* Cost--Many training dollars are not spent on training. One client reports that 80 percent of its training budget is spent on getting the student to the training and keeping him or her there. Air fare, lodging and per diem take a huge bite out of the training dollar. Clearly, the reduction in travel costs offered by audiographic teletraining frees up dollars that can be redirected to the training curriculum.

* Downtime--If employee trainees are on the road, they are not on the job. Teletraining means trainees learn and study on-site.

A three-hour class means three hours off the job, not three days.

* Accessibility--Closely linked to reduce downtime is the access to key personnel. If an engineer is attending a class in a distant city, that expertise is not at hand if a technical emergency arises. If the class is down the hall instead of down the road, the problem can be solved and the student can return to the class with a minimum of interruption.

* Cancellation--Teletraining classes are rarely cancelled due to bad weather or airport delays. Equipment failures and transmission glitches are rare, and usually can be remedied within minutes.

* More Training--How many employees can you afford to train if training means days off the job and hefty travel costs? On the other hand, how many employees would you choose to train if downtime were minimal and site costs constant regardless of the number of trainees? The information explosion and rapid technological changes mean that employees need constant updating and re-training. And most employees view corporate training as a benefit of employment. Teletraining can be a key factor in an improved workforce and improved morale.

* "Live" Training--In order to cut costs, many organizations have turned to self-paced or computer-assisted instruction. Common complaints include the lack of the human element and the opportunity for questions and clarification. Although the teletrainer is not physically present, the training is "live." By adding audiographics, teacher and students can share written comments as well as classroom discussion.

Do not expect to duplicate a face-to-face class on the telephone. Proven teletraining techniques must be employed for a successful outcome. Unless you know these tricks of the trade, you risk a poorly paced, ineffectual first effort.

In training more than 2,000 teleconference users, working with hundreds of clients and lecturing on teletraining to six countries. I'm impressed with the potential it offers. Regardless of the subject matter, teletraining can be effective. Courses are being taught today on topics as diverse as sales motivation, jet engine maintenance, financial planning and a host of others. Just as the computer has captured the imagination of Americans, so too can audiographics become the magic carpet that carries learning far into the mainstream of American business.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Ostendorf, V.
Publication:Communications News
Date:Feb 1, 1985
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