The MARCOM Group, Ltd.

Software Solutions: Interactive CD-ROM Comes of Age

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Courtesy of The MARCOM Group, Ltd.

 Safety & Regulatory Compliance training is more important today than ever before. As costs from workplace injuries continue to increase and machines and processes are more complex, agencies like OSHA, DOT and the EPA continually require training (and retraining) on any number of topics. All of this makes it difficult for employers to keep up with the need for training. In fact, the search for effective and efficient training may be the biggest challenge safety professionals have. And it's no wonder. Just look at a few of the problems we face:

More than 2 million US workers experience back injuries on the job every year. The resulting cost to employers is estimated to be over $30 billion dollars annually.
In healthcare environments, workers are 20 times more likely to contract Hepatitis B (HBV) than the 'normal' population. There are more than 18,000 cases of HBV reported each year... resulting in 200-300 deaths.
Even offices can be dangerous. While they are the last place many people think accidents occur, office injuries account for thousands and thousands of hours of lost time... and cost employers millions.
Unfortunately, in our fast paced world it seems to be increasingly difficult to find the time for the training that can help stop these types of problems from occurring. So what are we to do? For many of us, the answer is often found by looking at new types of training, using today's technology.

For years, the TV and VCR have been the focus of much of our Safety & Regulatory Compliance Training. But how effective has this type of training really been? The Management Guide to Lost Control states that '... the average person only retains 50% of what they actively see and hear' (when was the last time you heard an employee say... 'Whoopee! It's time for my monthly safety training!'?).

You have probably asked yourself many times... 'Is this training really working? ... or do they really get it?' As one safety trainer I talked to said, 'I teach these guys, we watch the video, they take the test and yet three days later they're back to doing it the wrong way!'

Even if we are satisfied with the way classroom-based training is working, how practical is it in today's work environment? Frequently, you have to stop some of your facility's production to gather a group of employees together at the same time. Of course, some people are always out sick or on vacation... and what about your second and third shift workers... or that new hire starting next week? Do you reschedule the class again at a later date... or let those people 'pick it up on their own?'

Maybe it's time to look at implementing some of this new 'technology-based training' you've been hearing about. The most frequently talked about are Web-based and Interactive CD-ROM training. Let's take a look at each one.

While Web-based training is available and out there... be careful! Training via the Internet is still new. You can do it, but often it is difficult to use, and it can't deliver full-motion video (which is felt by many people to be the best way to demonstrate how to work safely). Currently, most Web-based training is a lot like watching a slide show. Each screen has a 'still picture' (or graphic) and some text. When you are finished with one screen you point, click and wait for the next page to appear.

Some Web-based training vendors will claim that they have full-motion video courses up on the Internet, but in order to see them, you normally have to 'download' the video file... which can take a lot of time.

Today, if you truly want to drive a safety message home to your employees, Interactive CD-ROM training may well be the best alternative. This type of training isn't brand new, but until recently, many companies encountered significant roadblocks trying to implement this kind of training.

Well all of that has changed! Which is why more and more companies are turning to Interactive CD-ROM for their Safety & Regulatory Compliance training. More than 95% of the computers shipped today include a CD-ROM drive. Video quality has improved dramatically, and no special cards or software is needed.

Don Leonard, President of The MARCOM Group, Ltd., which has created more than 60 Interactive Courses on Safety, Health and Regulatory Compliance says, '... Many companies, large and small, are beginning to embrace Interactive Training. This year seems to be the turning point for this type of training technology.'

What is driving these companies to choose Interactive CD-ROM training? There are a number of factors. They like the 'one-on-one' training... just the employee, the computer, and the course. It solves the traditional problems that come with classroom training, such... making sure that all the employees who need the training are available at the same time... and providing training for those people who are 'missing' from the first classroom session. If you have a lot of employees to train, you can set up multiple PC's in a Learning Center, or even put the training on a captive network (such as a LAN or WAN), to provide access to a large number of employees at the same time.

Another advantage is that unlike video, most Interactive CD-ROM courses are fairly easy to customize. Incorporating OSHA required, site-specific information into a Course, or even company policies and procedures is just the beginning of what you can do. Some Interactive CD-ROM producers, such as MARCOM's, offer various levels of customization as part of their Training Management System. 'You can do everything from changing Quiz questions, colors and background, to adding new video,' says Leonard. For example, The MARCOM Group has worked with AT&T to take several 'off-the-shelf' courses and modify them. According to Jim Chandler, a former training developer from AT&T's Environmental, Health & Safety Group... We liked the content of the courses, but we wanted to add some information about specific AT&T procedures, as well as show some of our own operating environments.'

But is implementing Interactive Training worth the effort? Simply put, the answer is yes! Good Interactive CD-ROM training takes the best of the 'old' way, utilizing full-motion video to demonstrate safe and unsafe work practices... but takes advantage of the power of computers to build interactivity and training management capabilities around the video. Many people are uncomfortable in a classroom setting. And during discussions, they don't want to sound dumb or feel stupid, so they don't ask questions. Interactive CD-ROM training allows employees to proceed at their own pace, without being embarrassed. A good Interactive course also uses a variety of media, providing workers with an assortment of 'inputs' (such as text, graphics, still pictures, sound and full-motion video) to keep things interesting.

Another strength of Interactive CD-ROM training is the ability to 'remediate.' This provides the opportunity to quiz or test employees after they have been exposed to an easily digestible segment of information. If the employee gets a quiz question wrong, a good course will immediately 'recycle' the employee back through the specific piece of information that they need to answer the question correctly.

Another major advantage of Interactive CD-ROM training is what many people are calling the 'Training Management System' that can be used with the courses. These systems record information that is generated as employees take a course, such as... who the employee is... when the course was taken... what their Test scores are... and even which Test questions are frequently being answered incorrectly. This lets the trainer easily monitor, and document how the training process is going.

All of these capabilities are attracting more and more companies to Interactive CD-ROM for their Safety & Regulatory Compliance Training. Ames Abbot, President of IPRAX Corporation, is an interactive media producer who is intimately involved with this trend. 'We were doing real missionary work two years ago, evangelizing the benefits of moving to Interactive,' Abbot says. 'Today, most people know the 'in's and outs' of Interactive training, and immediately start asking questions about the Training Management System, the costs that are involved and what they need to do to get up and running.'

Leonard, of MARCOM is even more enthusiastic. 'In the next three years, I really think the majority of Safety & Regulatory Compliance training is going to be done Interactively. There are just too many benefits for most companies to ignore it.' But Leonard also cautions 'Be careful when you look at various Interactive Courses. Not all Courses have the same capabilities.' For instance, some courses on the market can take employees an hour and a half to complete. Not what most companies would call efficient training. Says Leonard,' you should know what you need for your training environment... and make sure you ask lots of questions when you talk to a sales rep.'

Whether you have ten workers or ten thousand, Interactive CD-ROM training can be cost-effective for you. Companies usually follow the 1 to 100 rule (one PC for every 100 employees) to determine hardware requirements. And while some vendors have maintained a relatively high price for their courses, with a little investigation you can find excellent quality courses for under $500 each. Some vendors even have lease programs for both their courses and the PC's to run them on, which can reduce the expenses to a surprisingly low monthly payment.

Trainers' time can now be freed up. By eliminating the need for classroom preparation and the hours spent conducting the classes themselves, more time can be devoted to other important safety issues. And if trainers have to travel to get to the employees, travel expenses can also be reduced dramatically.

Is computer-based training the end all and be all for our Safety & Regulatory Compliance training needs? Of course not. For some topics, such as Forklift operations and Confined Space Entry, employees have to have 'hands-on experience' before they can be certified to work. But in all of those other instances where classroom training is what is used, Interactive can do a better, more cost effective job of getting the information to employees... and most importantly, getting it to stick with them!

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