Education Goes Online

By Lester, Tom | Marketing, September 28, 1995 | Go to article overview

Education Goes Online


Lester, Tom, Marketing


When Allied-Domecq Retailing needed to improve the training for the staff in its 2000 or so pubs, it faced a formidable and expensive task if it was to get round them all in a reasonable time. Raising service standards and performance of all its staff was urgent, so a series of computer-based training (CBT) packages was devised for use on-line.

Next year, NatWest will pipe CBT modules to every workstation in every branch for staff to learn about all its technical banking procedures. Every branch will also have a multimedia work station for them to learn softer skills such as interviewing.

Both are examples of rising interest in distributed CBT. The aim is to improve staff knowledge and skills at a reasonable cost. NatWest has 56,000 employees in the UK, and on its existing equipment, they get through 500,000 training `occasions' a year.

Richard McGreevy, Natwest's UK technical training manager, says that "arguments rage over whether CBT is half as effective or twice as effective as traditional methods, but we go for a mixed solution. We still have conventional training in two big centres, but we don't have surplus staff any more to cover for absences, and sending staff 200 miles for a two-week training course is very expensive."

Training is therefore broken down into short modules, and provided in a form that staff can use at their own pace. The ideal may `just-in-time training' where, for example, a salesman can brush up on negotiating skills as well as technical specifications before going to an important meeting, or a marketer might study statistical analysis before trying to decide whether the new ad campaign is boosting sales.

The on-line facility is important for many companies wanting to update material instantly across the organisation, whether it's interest rates, this week's offers, or, as Digital Equipment finds, new software applications. It recently had an urgent need to train 30 key people based in Japan, Hong Kong and Sydney in some software it had just developed.

A one-off training package was produced in the US, and run through the video-conferencing facilities in three-hour sessions. The staff could see the material and question the presenters interactively. The saving in air fares alone justified the costs.

McGreevy reckons it takes about 1000 staff hours to produce one hour of computer-based training, and if a multimedia presentation involves video recordings, the costs escalate. …

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