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Editorial

InService Training

The half-life of useful knowledge and skills is diminishing rapidly in the face of innovation and paradigm shifts. Periodically I find myself imprisoned in an expensive hotel to have my mind reshaped to fit global changes around me. This week was about viruses, last week was network security, next week - intelligent cell-phones. The flow of new technology is endless, and each brings fresh opportunities for business, industry, military, government, education, and personal growth. The dark side is ever present and misuse must be factored into our planning.

A month ago I signed up for a videoconference on my office computer. I was glad not to have traveled for this performance a panel of speakers with fixed assignments and time-frames, no visuals, and no significant interaction.

. . .

I compared the presentation with the brilliant productions of Adobe, Microsoft, Tend Micro, and other technology companies who use hotel environments to reach their core customers. These roadshows are supported by handouts, manuals, CDs, and teams of technical experts to field questions, demonstrate products, and service customer needs. Other incentives include food, refreshments. and door prizes. These shows are well attended in large cities throughout the country. They attract executives, politicians, technicians, sales persons, trainers and VARs (Value Added Resellers). They build relationships and grow profits.

These same technology industries are leaders in developing online tutorials that range from Help Text to short courses and Certificate programs. Certification from companies like CISCO and MicroSoft set industry standards for quality and relevance. Because of rapidly changing technology, these certifications must be regularly updated. Programs are available through community colleges and technical institutes, short-courses at conventions, and textbook with CD-ROM. There is often a hands-on laboratory component and all testing is online.

Text, CD and online components enable fast and scaleable course rollout. Courses are standardized and high in quality. Because they are computer based, they can be quickly revised, updated and replicated.

. . .

By this time the videoconference was relegated to a tiny window in the corner of my screen and became increasingly smaller as I answered and initiated emails, corrected student assignments, and conducted web searches. In high and low moments of the videoconference I was able to respond with cheers and expletives that would not be appropriate in a hotel setting. I was in control because I was NOT physically present. The speakers continued to mumble through my cheers, groans, and insults.

Talking off the cuff, even by experts, does not compare with the focused objectives, illustrations, examples, and storytelling in roadshow presentations, or the concise Just-In-Time tutorials online. Educators and trainers should reassess their mission and environment, and acquire the expertise, technology tools and techniques used by their best of class colleagues in industry. And if they fail to do this well, their best of class colleagues may replace them using these same technologies.

As outsourcing replaces local jobs, and automation eliminates repetitive procedures, technology can improve services and lower cost. These trends seem to be irreversible and are hostile to procrastination and mediocre performance. Those who read this Journal are capable entrepreneurs and innovators in research, design, development, programming, dissemination, implementation, and evaluation of these higher order technology, education and training products.

Marshall McLuhan reminds us that change is around the corner. We cannot see the future in our rear-vision mirror.
 

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