TRAINING WITH MULTIMEDIA
Vol. 2, No. 11, 1997
How to Convince a Training Sponsor to Invest in Multimedia
ADVISORTM TRAINING STRATEGY DECISION SUPPORT SOFTWARE HELPS BUILD THE BUSINESS
With so many new learning
technologies to choose from, training sponsors can have difficulty deciding how
to best leverage their budgets for optimal performance results. For most
managers, the transition from classroom-based learning to technology-assisted
solution is a leap of faith. They would like to be completely convinced they are
making a wise decision with demonstrable business results. For training
consultants, this means reliably answering questions like these for their
- Which delivery method is the most appropriate
for the learning requirement?
- What will the course cost to
- How much will the whole training
- How can I save money?
BNH Expert Software of Montreal, Quebec
has built a suite of software tools that helps consultants to formulate
quantified answers to these questions and easily present them to clients. The
software is not biased towards any type of training delivery method but is most
appropriately used when lower-cost alternatives to instructor-led training are
being evaluated. The software called AdvisorTM version 2.0
performs three primary functions:
- Recommending Training Delivery Methods /
Media: The feasibility analysis software processes user input about audience,
training requirements, course
content and delivery
logistics. User input on a total of 54 variables can have 188 possible
response selections resulting in thousands of possible response permutations.
The software uses a rule-based decision system to recommend the most effective
delivery option. The options include twenty types of training ranging from
conventional instructor-led all the way to virtual reality. It can also
support decisions for which combination of delivery methods is
- CBT Development Hours: From a range of user
inputs regarding the variables which impact on the course design, the software
determines how many development hours will be needed to build one hour of the
required CBT / MBT. In another tool, this number gets plugged into other
variables to come up with a total course cost.
- Training Cost Analysis: This tool uses input
data from the other two tools plus additional inputs to compute the cost of
the training implementation over the expected life of the course, by year, or
by learner. It can compare these costs with one or many optional training
delivery methods to allow the training sponsor to fully understand how cost
savings can be achieved using various alternative delivery methods. It
presents a break-even point at which the technology-assisted solution becomes
cheaper than the conventional classroom.
The most compelling aspects of the software are
the abilities both to play with the numbers, looking at a range of situations in
the sponsor's presence and to have the results presented in a
readily comprehensible format.
In this way, the sponsor begins to gain insight into why one training strategy
makes more sense than another and to understand the very significant financial
impacts of "time away from work to train" and "travel to training costs."The US Air Force, which started using
interactive multimedia for training long before its current popularity,
developed training strategy decision support tools but never attempted to
commercialize them for corporate use. BNH Expert Software evaluated the Air
Force's tools and used Sheppard Air Force base as one of their beta testing
sites. They also tested the rule-based system and linkage between the tools with
over one hundred different types of training challenges before launching Version
In this article, we explore the features of the
software to show how it will help to improve the training decision-making
process for both novices and organizations already doing substantial
technology-based learning. This tool will become a common standard in the
training industry. At a price per unit of $295 US / $395 CDN, this should not be
a purchase decision you should take any time to make.
Making Sense of All the Variables
Even if you are experienced in all
the new learning technologies, the number and complexity of decisions required
to build and implement training are now growing exponentially. When classroom,
video and paper-based self-study were the most common forms of training, the
decisions were a lot simpler. The constraints are becoming more complex as well,
particularly those stemming from hardware, schedules and the mandate to reduce
cost per learner.
AdvisorTM asks the user to enter
all the variables that impact training decisions. It uses selections from a
fly-over menu activated by the right hand mouse button or input of actual
numbers. For some entries, the software can recommend values which it has
computed from results of other data already entered or from training development
and implementation benchmarks reflected in the rule-based system. Shaded fields
fill in by themselves by drawing on data already entered. The "Help" function
provides clarification regarding criteria for entering information in each
Variables are divided into "factors" which play
a major role in the training recommendation and into "multipliers" which either
are used to weight factors positively or negatively. The rule-based system
steers the user back on track when illogical combinations of variables have been
entered. An extreme example of this would be entering a role play requirement in
a computer skills training program. The software recognizes computer training as
a major factor and has a profile of what variable entries would typically best
support computer training. As role plays are not required in computer training,
the software would automatically reduce this entry to an insignificant level of
importance, thereby restricting its impact on the result.
After filling in the various worksheets
associated with each tool, the computed results are summarized and can be
displayed or printed in quick study graphic and text formats. For the user, the
tools simplify the number crunching, add some "intelligence" of their own and
help organize the analysis in a standardized, systematic way. The software
stores each course analysis as a separate file. These files can be used over
time to reconcile planned with actual data as well as to develop benchmarks for
statistics like average costs, average development time or total corporate
savings from technology-based training solutions.
Based on user input, this screen displays each
of the delivery methods/media in rank order of how well suited they are to the
training challenge. The horizontal bars have a percentage rating on their right
end which allows for quantitative comparisons. When the score for any delivery
method is below 100%, the question mark icon beside each option can be clicked
to have the screen on the right indicate why the effectiveness of each media
option is less than perfect. As the scoring is relative, even the top-rated
delivery medium may still involve considerable challenges or have specific
The AdvisorTM guidebook recommends
analyzing the course module by module if certain conditions are present. A mix
of course objectives may point to using a mix of delivery methods. Some modules
may be most effectively handled with self-paced reading while others may require
an instructor. Analysis by module in this way may actually reduce training
costs. The guidebook says that a course may be divided into separate standalone
- The module is self-contained and may be
presented independent of the course.
- Not all learners are required to complete the
- The modules are managed and/or taught by
individuals who are not conversant in all the modules.
This summary screen groups factors which
contribute to development costs being lower, moderate, higher or not applicable.
The user is also given an actual number to indicate how much time one hour of
CBT / MBT would require to develop. The "Training Cost Analysis" tool uses this
number as a benchmark and calculates the entire course cost. As cost per each
incremental hour of a course tends to diminish, the software does not simply
multiply the hour estimation by the total number of hours estimated for the
course. It adjusts the benchmark down for each incremental hour.
TRAINING COST ANALYSIS:
As this tool is the most
complex of the three, there are four choices of summary screens: Costs, Savings,
Investment and Break-even. Costs and Break-even can also be depicted
The Costs screen gives you a cost comparison
between various delivery media broken down into the various key components of
cost. You get a total cost and a cost per learner by method. You can print out a
graph depicting each type of media option in order to present the cost
components to your client.
The savings screen shows savings per year versus
classroom training for each type of delivery method. This is broken out into
direct and indirect savings plus total savings over the life of the
The break-even screen should only be looked at
in a graphical format as the numerical screen only contains the number of months
to break-even for each delivery method. The graphical screen depicts the
break-even month compared to another delivery method and graphically shows what
happens over the life of the course. It not only shows the break-even month but
also shows the break-even point in dollars, the up front investment, and savings
over the life of the course. There are three choices for the type of charts you
can use for break-even.
Direct and Indirect Costs
When professional consultants advise a client on
the costs of various training options, they typically look at all costs
associated with the training in order to compare apples to apples.
Some organizations prefer to evaluate only the
costs for which there is a cash outlay and to bury other costs into general
overhead and operating expenses. If you have in-house trainers on salary and do
not get charged back for their time, you may omit this cost in your comparisons.
If travel costs for learners to attend a classroom session is a travel budget
expense and not a training expense, there is a temptation to not include this in
the training costs analysis.
The AdvisorTM software facilitates
the entry of all training costs, both direct and indirect to arrive at a true
cost for training. This is the only professional way to get a true break-even,
and to arrive at an ROI for a training project. Increasingly, more professional
management practices are requiring the charge back of all related expenses to
projects that used to be absorbed into the overhead of the business unit or into
budgets that did not specifically relate to training.
What About EPSS?
The Feasibility Analysis tool can identify
opportunities for an EPSS, embedded training, hypermedia, and hypertext. This is
a mark of sophistication and recognizes the growing interest in EPSS solutions
for achieving the desired performance faster and at the lowest cost. Some of the
input selections that would point to an EPSS solution are:
- reason for course (upgrade knowledge - versus
- content deals with (a very large body of
- information referred to
- applying knowledge is (complex and
- location of learners (widely
- number of learners (large >
- consistency (critical)
- learning objectives (problem solving or
What About ROI?
If you have already made the decision that
training is the solution to a performance issue, AdvisorTM can determine an ROI
for various delivery options. For example, if you are currently delivering a
classroom course and would like an ROI on converting the course and
implementation to interactive multimedia, the software will do this. However, if
the effectiveness of the training is a component of the ROI calculation, there
is currently no tool that can estimate how effective the training will be at
improving performance. As we know, the effectiveness of training can vary widely
based on variables like course design, management support, learner compensation
and process design.
Advisor Easy to Use?
AdvisorTM is very supportive of
the user. A few rounds of practice will quickly bring the user up to speed.
While the software is very intuitive to use, the learning curve relates to a few
aspects of the tools:
- You may not understand the linkage between
some of your inputs and the summary screens until you play with these inputs
and see how they effect the summary result.
- You may have to remind yourself which input
screen you are in so you do not input "classroom" data into the "interactive"
input screen. The screen title is plainly visible but until you get used to
the tools, you may need to be focused on which screen you are
- You will need to understand exactly what each
input field is about because a wrong entry can sometimes seriously skew the
result. The Help function can assist you with this, and after several rounds
you will become accurate.
- Your inputs need to reflect a planned training
intervention rather than a current reality. If you currently do not have
Multimedia PCs but plan to for the training, you must enter the selection
"any-time" in the "Access to Multimedia PC" field rather than "no
AdvisorTM reflects BNH Expert
Systems' profound knowledge and experience of a wide range of training methods
and technologies. It also reflects a professional approach to managerial cost
accounting practices and the need to fully represent all costs related to
training in the their proper context. The software is well - designed and simple
to operate. The benefits for training consultants are significant.
- a reliable process for approaching performance
- a way to document and relate training costs
- a common language shared by training
consultants and clients to promote clarity
- a great presentation tool to simplify training
decision for the consultant and client
- a way to make media selection, costing, and
training management more professional.
AdvisorTM does work that may
independent training consultants are used to charging several thousands of
dollars for. While it does not replace the experience or judgment of a good
training consultant, some consultants may feel it would undermine their value to
clients and will avoid showing it to them. Others will use it as a tool to
simplify their work and to add value for clients by using it with them. Either
way it will be come a standard.
BNH Expert Software
Email - email@example.com
Training With Multimediaİ is published by
Turning Point Business Media.