Magazine article Training & Development

Is Multimedia Worth the Money?

Magazine article Training & Development

Is Multimedia Worth the Money?

Article excerpt

Who hasn't asked that question about multimedia? Three case studies reveal that it saves time and money in the long run.

The total cost of a training program is equal to the combined costs of development and delivery. Multimedia training tends to cost more for development (for the hardware, software, and other technology) and less for delivery because the training can be delivered simultaneously to a large audience at multiple sites. Instructor-led training tends to cost less for development (most classroom training involves relatively inexpensive materials) and more for delivery due to travel expenses and time away from work for trainees and instructors. In the case studies, multimedia training was consistently less expensive over the long run than instructor-led training.

As for time savings, every organization reported that multimedia training was faster than instructor-led training - from 20 to 80 percent faster, with an average 50 percent reduction in training time. They cited such reasons as a tighter instructional design and trainees' option to bypass content they didn't need.

Case study 1. Storage Technology manufactures hardware for mainframe computers and employs 1,500 technicians. In the past, the company trained technicians on new equipment by bringing them to headquarters in Colorado for four to 10 days to attend classroom lectures and to practice diagnostic and repair procedures on the actual equipment in a lab.

Now, a multimedia program provides a full simulation of new equipment on dedicated (meaning, for the purpose of training only) computers located in the company's field offices across the United States. Technicians can view maintenance panels, run diagnostics, spot failures, click on pictures of replaceable parts, and convey parts on-screen to the appropriate locations for simulated repairs.

The savings have been substantial, says Stephen Ball, director of training, due to less training time and reduced travel expenses. Figure 1 compares the total training costs over three years for one program - about $2 million for the lecture-lab format and a little more than $1 million for the multimedia version. Ball says that the multimedia training has also saved the company an average of 12.5 "person years" per course. In other words, over the lifetime of a course, it would take 12.5 more years to train people if the training were delivered via instructor. On a smaller scale, for example, the hours of one lecture-lab course (28 hours for four days of training) were reduced to 11.2 hours - a 40 percent reduction.

"One early mistake was giving senior managers too much financial information," says Ball. "It confounded them. I recommend presenting an overview and only the numbers that are relevant to the particular audience. Focus on the highlights: Here's the overall investment; here are the projected savings over three years.

"Still, you need a champion among management, not just a supporter. A champion touts the benefits of multimedia; a supporter simply says OK. There's a huge difference. Also, be sure you conduct ongoing marketing. I didn't, and we suffered, even though we were saving the company money."

Case study 2. Commonwealth Bank is one of the largest banks in Australia, with 1,500 branch offices and 36,000 employees scattered throughout the country, including many rural locations. …

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