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Computers in Nursing
May/June 1999

Top Drawer
Essential Information On New Products, Software, Books, Meetings, and Internet Resources

SOFTWARE REVIEW

ADVISOR 3.0. Media Selection and Return on Investment Tool

Advisor 3.0 allows corporate educators to choose the most cost-effective and appropriate solution for their training needs by estimating the return on investment for various delivery methods. Return on investment is a method to establish and measure the relationship of cost to value in training. A return on investment analysis frequently points to technology-mediated solutions, because savings can be realized as soon as the initial investment in software and hardware is recouped through a reduction in travel, instruction time, and student salaries.

Advisor is a useful tool in today's healthcare environment, where staff developers often are responsible for multiple clinics, hospitals, clinical and nonclinical staff. They must determine how to deliver training to often widely dispersed audiences. The planning of training programs for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, new clinical software, new equipment, and other mandatory education topics have considerable financial implications. In the process, misguided education plans not only can waste training time but also may lead to a delay of business-critical innovations, which can prove costly in the long run. Advisor, as a decision-support tool, helps educators determine the delivery methods that facilitate learning in the most cost-effective way. The tool takes into account that instructional objectives, technological infrastructure, hidden costs, and many other factors play a role during the selection process.

Advisor conducts an analysis of a particular training project on three levels: first, organizational data is entered; then, course objectives are stated and classified by skills groups (such as knowledge skills and psychomotor skills); and finally, a detailed analysis for each skills group is done. Each analysis level is accessed from a menu with button bars that connect to a spreadsheet-like interface. Fields in each spreadsheet are completed easily by selecting from either options in a drop-down menu (that can be revealed with a right mouse click); or by entering a numerical or dollar figure. For example, at the organizational level of the analysis, Advisor asks for information to assess an organization's past experience with computer-based training. One particular field requires information about how often computer-based training modules were used in the past and offers theses choices as answers: "Very Frequent." "Frequent," "Infrequent," and "None." The user has access to a Tip window, required for software, knowledge, problem-solving, psychomotor, and affective skills. This can be accomplished either by separate data entry or import and review of existing data from other skills groups of the same course.

Once a separate analysis for each skills group has be completed, Advisor provides a course summary and recommends various combinations of delivery methods, with a comparison of costs and effectiveness. Results can be displayed with various charts (Figure 1) or exported into spreadsheet applications. The user can compare the costs of different course structures that use different delivery methods.

When studying Advisor's recommendations, it is not surprising that technology-based delivery often will provide the optimum in learning effectiveness and cost savings, and is deemed superior to classroom delivery. However, potential solutions express themselves in the plethora of new technologies, including computer-based training, web-based training, electronic performance support systems, synchronous and asynchronous computer conferencing, and computer simulations. It is Advisor's purpose to show how each technology meets the organization's training needs differently, explaining advantages and disadvantages. At any point in the three-level analysis process, the user can move back to previous steps and change data, "play" with numbers, change previous assumptions. Various scenarios can be generated to appreciate their benefits and costs.

The detailed analysis features make Advisor a powerful application for large training roll-outs. Previous versions of Advisor have been adopted as a standard by several organizations, including the US and Canadian Military, banks, consulting firms, and medical institutions. The data collection wizard, however might still be an effective tool for providing a scaled-down analysis in small organizations. Those users who work in internal or external consulting roles will appreciate Advisor's use of industry standards and a rule-based system to arrive at unbiased recommendations, a methodology that adds credibility to the analysis process.

Advisor saves each course analysis as a separate file, which can be reused as a template for future courses. Data can be updated as a course progresses and real-time data becomes available. This feature enables users to compare projected costs with actual costs as well as provide an up-to-the-minute snapshot of expenses incurred in the project any time. Over time, project data can be used to compute average program costs and savings to the organization.

Advisor comes with a detailed manual; however, intuitive navigation, extensive tutorials, context-sensitive menus, and a well-organized Help menu provide the online support necessary to complete a comprehensive analysis.

Review by Jan Buhmann

Published by BNH Expert Software
4000 Steinberg Street
St-Laurent, QC, Canada H4R 2G7
Phone: 800-747-4010


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