The need for high-quality technical training in our industry despite reduced travel budgets has made online training programs more critical than ever. David Chace, owner of Training Allies, has cut out an appropriate niche in this area, serving as a consultant in the design of several e-learning programs now offered in the CEDIA channel. Among his attributes are a thorough understanding of the CE marketplace and its evolving technologies, as well as a keen knowledge of eLearning design and technologies and proven adult learning practices. Chace took a moment to answer four questions about his vital behind-the-scenes role in industry education programs.
1 How did you become an expert in training techniques, specifically elearning?
Like many of the veterans in our industry, I began my career selling AV way back in the mid-80s. Later, I moved into management and started teaching others how the technology works and how to sell it. In the late ’90s I made the formal move to training when I became a director of product training for Tweeter, a company that was renowned for the quality of its training program. A key part of my job was learning about what makes for great training, and how to create engaging and compelling training programs for a wide and diverse audience. I started working with web-based training (WBT) back then, but since leaving Tweeter several years ago, I’ve become much more deeply involved with it. As a teaching tool, WBT provides enormous capabilities. In fact, in many situations it can be much more effective than live training.The e-learning industry has really taken off over the last few years, and there’s some incredible technology available to make the learning really interactive and engaging.
2 Can you discuss what sort of influence you have had on e-learning programs that CEDIA channel ESCs might have experienced recently?
Part of our influence is bringing more awareness to web-based training throughout our industry, and educating people to what it is and what it offers. Many people associate WBT only with webinars or courses that you have to pay to see. We’re helping to expand awareness around the industry to the capabilities and benefits of selfpaced online learning. Nowadays, more and more industry organizations are looking to get started with an online training program, or want to enhance their existing program; and in both cases we’re working with them to achieve their objectives. For instance, we build online training for a variety of manufacturers like NuVo and Marantz that can range from brief product tutorials to complete certification-based online programs. We’re also able to help them track who is taking their courses, and provide a variety of data about the individual results of the participants.
3 What are the most typical mistakes that you see companies making when trying to train their dealers online?
A frequent mistake companies make is to not properly understand the objective of the training. They believe that the priority is to deliver as much information as possible (often in the form of written text), when in fact the objective should be to engage the learners, and help them to understand and remember the information so they can effectively apply the lessons later when they’re on the job. Another common mistake is that they make the courses too long. It’s not uncommon to see online training courses that are over an hour long, or even several hours in length. However, research has proven that online learning is most effective when kept to manageable “chunks,” ideally no more than 15 minutes in length. If the information dictates a 60-minute curriculum, it’s better to break it into four or five individual segments than to create a single hour-long course.
4 In general, how do you make elearning more fun?
The key word is “participate.” Good e-learning means the learner is an active participant, not just an observer. E-learning shouldn’t mean being trapped in front of computer for hours, reading page after page of text. It should be a visually stimulating and interactive process, with the learner able to explore different options, or influence various outcomes. It can also provide for a variety of scenarios or challenges that keep the learner interested and engaged. Additionally, today’s technology can make online learning really fun and interesting by using programs like 3D modeling and virtual-world environments that actually put the learner in a simulated space and let them interact with their surroundings. In short, eLearning can be enormously effective and cost efficient when designed properly. Our understanding of CE technology along with our expertise in adult learning principles and instructional design allow us to create engaging and effective online programs, thus providing a tremendous value to a wide variety of CE organizations.