August 28, 1995

Training CD ROMs make the grade

Interactivity aids retention

By Erica Schroeder

The daunting training required to move users to Windows 95 could force IS managers to turn to a relatively new phenomenon made more viable by the new operating system itself: multimedia training CD ROMs.

With Windows 95's improved audio and video performance, 32-bit support, and multitasking, numerous companies are readying titles that may lessen the training burden on corporate IS departments and help-desk operations. Vendors announcing interactive Windows 95 training disks include Personal Training Systems, Individual Software Inc., Blue Sky Software Corp., Soft-One Corp., Data Train Institute, Advance Multimedia Corp., and The Graphix Zone.

In addition, PC makers such as Packard Bell, AST Research Inc., Epson America Inc., Canon U.S.A. Inc., and Micron Electronics Inc. are bundling Windows 95 training CD ROMs with systems featuring the operating system.

The CD ROM titles, which range in price from about $40 to $890, include demonstrations of new Windows functions, glossaries of terms, and interactive sessions that require users to perform tasks using Windows 95, then grade them.

One title from The Graphix Zone, called Windows 95 for the Technically Challenged, provides users with 10 free hours of access to America Online to give users quick answers to additional questions. The software automatically logs users in to a forum or area where they may find answers to their questions, said officials of the Los Angeles company.

By deploying CD ROMs to users and enabling them to train themselves, IS managers hope to reduce the high personnel demands and cost for retraining users.

"The biggest advantage [in using computer-based training] is it reduces cost for us in many of the training programs," said Dennis Gay, senior director for CSX Transportation, in Jacksonville, Fla. "It also allows us to deliver the training in a more consistent way."

Other corporate users said that using PC-based multimedia training actually improves on traditional classroom-based methods -- live lectures, video and audio tapes, and textbooks -- because users retain more information over a longer period.

A recent study completed by the Hudson Institute, in Indianapolis, of large computer sites echoed that idea: The results indicated that self-paced, technology-based training requires up to 30 percent less time to complete and gives users up to 40 percent higher retention rates, while costing as much as 30 percent less than traditional training methods.

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