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Training in plastics: the shape of things to come.

While a variety of approaches are currently available to train personnel in the plastics industry, new revolutionary technologies are on the horizon that can significantly impact the way training, and particularly technical training, is conducted. For years companies have relied on the standard classroom configuration with an instructor in front of the room adhering to a predetermined agenda and a schedule fixed by the ticks of a clock.

More recently, affordable video technology has made it possible to design and distribute video-based training packages to large numbers of consumers. Additionally, it has provided plastics companies with opportunities to create their own in-house training programs. However, video-based training does have its limitations. For one, it is sequential: learning units logically follow and build on one another. User attempts to manually circumvent the predetermined sequence can be both time consuming and frustrating. Also, it is a one-way communication tool with the user maintaining a relatively passive role in the learning process. This makes it less suited for technical subjects than for training 'soft' skills such as interpersonal relations, decision making, and problem solving. However, one advantage of video-based over stand-up training is that learning can take place at the convenience of the consumer.

With the rapid advances of computer technology and the omnipresence of PC computers in the workplace, alternative delivery platforms have been put at our fingertips that have considerable advantages over traditional 'stand-up' training, video-based training, and even the more interactive computer-based training (CBT). Soon these training methodologies may take a back seat to what is termed multimedia-based training. Multimedia (computers and media working together) uses audio, video, text, and graphics to take full advantage of a PC's ability to capture, reconfigure and display data. Such training platforms are efficient and effective in training arenas, particularly in the area of technical training. For example, they can be used to train employees to run complex or dangerous machinery in a safe environment. An injection molding machine operator can be depicted in a variety of real life situations and the learner asked to respond. Responses are processed by the program and feedback is given immediately to the user (e.g., feedback could be demonstrating an operator responding in 'correct' fashion to a problem).

Additionally, multimedia technology takes advantage of what we know about how adults learn best. Adults have a need for self-directed learning. Although the branching capabilities of CBT programs give users some control over their learning, multimedia allows them to browse at will through the program in a fashion similar to the way they now browse through texts -- selecting pieces that will help them perform their jobs or those which seem interesting or enjoyable. In addition to accessing the learning process at any point, the user can stay as long as s/he desires, withdraw at any time without feeling uncomfortable, and receive immediate and meaningful feedback about demonstrated competencies rather than through more traditional evaluation methods. Also, displaying and interacting with motion picture images create a realism that is not found in other training vehicles. And such realism significantly enhances application of learned skills and concepts to the workplace.

The hardware and software necessary to convert today's PCs to MPCs (Multimedia Personal Computers) exist today. And by the mid-1990s computer manufacturers plan to build many of these features into every PC sold. Now is the best time for companies that conduct or sponsor training to learn about this technology and how it can best fit in their long-term strategic training plans.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Society of Plastics Engineers, Inc.
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:exploiting multimedia technology for technical training of plastics industry personnel
Author:Contessa, Jack
Publication:Plastics Engineering
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Aug 1, 1992
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