Training for Security

Consider this a way to make an investment for the future.

IT'S hard to judge from day to day how much you should invest in training. Even through you know training improves productivity, morale, and retention of key employees, the question of cost still remains.

Training is expensive, an investment in your most precious resource, your employees. Training can cost tens of thousands of dollars per year per employee. Besides the actual cost of training, travel, meals, lodging, and phone expenses can become quite expensive. You also have what is called lost opportunity cost: the cost of not being able to do business when a key employee is away for training. Putting projects on hold or not accepting new projects, overtime, and additional temporary manpower are also points of concern.

Add to these the cost of high turnover because of lack of advancement, poor job satisfaction, poor morale, limited training, and salary. The result is less money spent on training, less productivity, higher payroll, lower morale, even higher turnover, more money spent on recruiting, and a reduction of potential incoming business that can be handled with the present workforce.

So what are you supposed to do? Budgets and personnel shortages do not allow training for all employees. Timing issues related to training can take months. The answer lies in finding training processes that are inexpensive, require no travel, can be scheduled around your needs and employ a method that everyone can learn from. One is called Interactive Web Based Training (IWBT).

Interactive vs. Non-Interactive
Training can be broken down into interactive and non-interactive. Non-interactive includes books, CBT, WBT, audio, and videotape. The employee has to be very highly motivated to complete these, with the emphasis being on the employee to research answers. It is more economical and meets the requirements of little travel and scheduling. However, not everyone is motivated, nor can they learn from this method.

Many people do not respond without interaction within a group or with an instructor. Interactive learning requires someone to teach others. Classroom training, on-the-job training, and mentoring are good examples of interactive learning. These also are expensive; require time and resources of multiple professionals; and mandate travel and scheduling. Training usually occurs at a pre-set time with someone "feeding" the information. Interactive training also involves more of the senses such as sound, sight, touch, and smell, so more information is retained.

Using IWBT
How is IWBT the answer? IWBT is instructor-led training (interactive learning) conducted in a virtual classroom (VC) instead of a physical classroom. Using IWBT, most of the functions are performed in the VC, including using whiteboards, presentations, videos, demonstrations, questions and answers, and group interaction.

IWBT has a better support structure to aid in retaining and learning after the class is completed. These may include e-mail, recorded sessions, bulletin boards, and chat rooms, all designed to help the students retain and continue the learning process.

The recorded sessions are of the greatest value. These sessions are a streaming video capture of what went on in the VC during the class. All voice, text, presentations, and video are captured and stored on a server so the student can review the class. These recorded sessions also can be used to teach others who may not have been able to attend the class and to reinforce other non-interactive learning methods.

From the instructor's standpoint, the VC offers a greater range of questioning techniques and allows observation of how all of the students are doing. For example, once a question has been answered correctly in a classroom, I have no way of checking to see whether everyone knew the answer. In a VC, each student answers via a response box. The answer is recorded, and the instructor knows whether he can move on or needs to cover the subject in greater detail.

IWBT also is usually less expensive, easier to schedule, and avoids travel. IWBT does not require a physical classroom or student equipment. It allows for better utilization of the instructor's time. Technical experts are expensive, costing thousands of dollars per day, and they are limited by the physical size of the classroom and their ability to control the number of students. IWBT does not limit the number of students and imposes no physical limits on the classroom size, nor travel cost for the instructor, nor equipment overhead. Students in an IWBT course can come from around the globe. (I have students from Austria, Japan, India, France, Russia, Brazil, and Canada.)

As you can see, IWBT can offer major benefits for your organization, including:

* Lower expense
* No lost opportunity cost
* Better morale
* Minimal travel
* Better learning environment
* Better retention and learning capabilities
* Easier scheduling
* Follow-on support.

I have been teaching IWBT classes for several years, including courses on computer hardware installation and troubleshooting, programming, operations, administration, networking, security, and business management. Our company markets a product that uses both hardware and software. We have a large number of widely dispersed business partners with a high turnover of employees, using a fairly technical set of hardware and software that integrates with computer networks. Traditional interactive training is very expensive and not being utilized to its fullest extent because of the cost involved. The company wishes to increase training effectiveness, reduce cost, and have more people trained.

To accomplish this, we are implementing an IWBT solution that, once fully operational, will allow business partners to choose training via instructor-led classroom training, interactive Web-based training, or Web-based training via a set of streaming videos. Courses being offered via IWBT include the standard classroom courses in installation and operations using the Windows operating system, the Linux operating system, and an advance system design and troubleshooting course for the security architect.

The product offers virtual meeting room capabilities that can be used to announce the rollout of new products or meet with executives to discuss business issues. We also can use these meeting rooms to meet with national sales representatives, saving thousands of dollars in travel and lost sales time. Support also will benefit from the IWBT. Additionally, the product provides the ability to take control of the student's computer to assist in troubleshooting a problem. Technical Support will be able to watch the steps; messages that appear on the clients' PCs greatly reduce the amount of time required to identify and correct a problem.

Also, IWBT is being used to help train business partners' clients. They will have streaming video segments of different features and how to use them for our products. These video segments will be downloadable by the clients so they can better understand the features of the products, reduce support and training requirements, and increase the value of selected products. We hope to improve business partner and customer satisfaction, improve awareness of the products and capabilities, reduce the cost of supporting both business partners and clients, and improve the effectiveness of the overall training program.

IWBT is a great way to improve your training regardless of the size of the organization.

This article appeared in the September 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

This article originally appeared in the September 2005 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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