Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Training via Web Conference (Part 1 of 3): Why?

Why train via web conference?
  1. You don't want to face travel expenses
  2. Your users/employees would benefit from a hands-on training environment
  3. Your have a large user/employee base
  4. You would like to have satisfied, knowledgeable customers
I worked with a company that created complex inventory and labor management software with a variety of employee access levels. The manuals were separated by individual task and each consisted of at least 60 dense pages, making the total upwards of 800 pages. Needless to say, customer support was always in demand. Somewhere along the line, this company began using web conferencing to train users, complete with application sharing and custom schedules for each user's access level. Miraculously, support calls decreased....

Not all web training programs have to be as in-depth or comprehensive; your own customer support team can likely tell you all you need to know to start developing web training content. Web conferencing is great for internal training too - procedure updates, new product roll-outs, and new hire need-to-knows are just some of the internal needs that are well-suited to online training.

A recap of the benefits:

1. No More Travel Expenses
Travel takes an environmental toll as well as a financial one. With web conferencing, you can provide a classroom-like environment and simultaneous collaboration worldwide for all of your employees or users. No more lost days in travel or expensive meeting space rentals! Plus, you have greater freedom to bring in expert presenters, no matter where they are or how busy their schedules may be.

Training prep schedule and costs (loosely based on personal experience):
Prepare presentation (10-20 hours)
Prepare training docs (2-5 hours)
Manage printing/duplication of training docs (2-4 hours; printing costs)
Coordinate meeting space and catering (2 hours; meeting hall rental, catering expenses)
Send/coordinate email invitations (1-2 hours)
Travel to presentation site (1-8 hours; airfare, hotel, and meal expenses)
Present (variable, usually 6 hours plus lunch)
Follow-up/feedback email (1 hour)

I'm not exaggerating when I say that online training cuts out the bulk of the expense. I'm all for face-to-face contact in certain situations, but wouldn't it be great if trainers could just focus on...training?

2. Hands-On Training
You put a lot of time into your training presentation, but your users/employees still don't get the software or procedure in question? Web conferencing lets you show every step, click by click, on each user's screen. You can share the necessary applications and files with each user, and even "drive" the users' machines individually to help avoid confusion. I'd insert a clich
here about the value of show vs. tell, but you already know it's true.

3. Lots of Trainees
Where would you learn better, in a large auditorium or in front of the computer you use every day? Web conferencing lets each user receive a personalized experience in a familiar environment, without having to feel as if he or she is competing with other users for attention. Features like hand raising and chat provide instant feedback and opportunities for further discussion or assistance. (You can even delegate other presenters to answer chat questions
a great trick for large groups.)

4. Satisfaction - and Smarts
It's likely that your customers or employees will feel more confident after some hands-on training time, and it's even more likely that their perception of your company or product will change for the better. Web training, when implemented well, also ups your "tech-savvy" appearance in a big way. High-tech and people-oriented? Who doesn't want that in their brand identity?

Next up: How to Train via Web Conference...stay tuned.

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