Until a year ago, Kodak found training its global workforce extremely problematic. Today it distributes educational material on Photo CD and, by eliminating lengthy training sessions, has developed a more effective teaching method.

Training staff to deal with new products and concepts is an important part of new product development for any company. Sophisticated technology such as digital and applied imaging may require several days to explain. With international companies, business presentations to the entire workforce can be extremely problematic.

Kodak has found it increasingly hard to bring the staff that need teaching and those with specialist knowledge under the same roof.

One solution that Kodak found last year involved the creation of a series of educational CD-Roms. By putting core tutorial material onto a Photo CD, people within and beyond the company could build their understanding at a pace that suited them.

The strategy represented an important shift in approach. “This is the first time we have distributed educational material rather than brought people together,” says Gus Radzyminski, worldwide training manager at Digital & Applied Imaging (DAI).

The impetus for the first CD, called Digital Imaging Fundamentals, came from the company’s training department in the US.

It had already put together the core materials for educational seminars about the technology when the idea arose of transferring it to CD. Radzyminski says: “The stars moved into alignment” and the fit between the multimedia format and the training requirements of DAI was cemented.

After consultation with colleagues in Kodak’s training and Photo CD departments, Radzyminski began converting a school room presentation into an electronic medium. The script on the first CD followed the original seminars closely.

A local production company was contracted to take the existing visual material and “pretty it up”; a professional voiceover artist was used. The rest of the work was done in-house. Having cut a test disc and confirmed it met specifications, a 5,000 pressing was ordered.

The CD allows users to choose from a menu of subjects. By clicking on the relevant topic, the training session is activated. The CD then plays as the user watches. The audio track carries most of the explanation, while on-screen text and images offer hard data and statistics. Other on-screen icons allow the user to go forward, backwards, pause or stop. Once installed, the format is as user-friendly as any computer game.

“We had excellent feedback. We had comments on how useful it is. We also learned from that first CD about what to put in and how to script it – so now we don’t just present the material,” says Radzyminski.

Using CD-Rom as a presentational tool has a number of advantages over simply running computer programmes in the training room. Users can learn at their own pace, repeating any sections they are unsure about or skipping those they already know.

Pitching a presentation that takes into account the varying levels of knowledge is one of the hardest tasks faced by trainers. “We had used a shotgun approach previously on the information we put out. Now we can use these for dealers to pre-train before they come for further on-site training,” explains Radzyminski.

To focus the minds of the disc’s users, his department will be setting exams to ensure that all those about to be given group presentations have already learned the basics.

“It will not be a school-type grading exercise. There will not be ABC marks – it will be pass or fail. Having got the basics down, when you come for training you can use the time effectively,” he says.

Further CDs in the series – CD Recordable Fundamentals and Desktop Imaging Systems and Issues – include questions within their programs. Users are presented with multiple choice options that they can click on to reveal either the correct message or an instruction to return to the relevant piece of text.

Another important benefit of the Photo CD format is that it is widely compatible. The discs can run on CD-Rom players through both Macs and PCs, in DOS or Windows environments, on specialist Photo CD players or consumer CDi machines, or even on disc-based computer game consoles. “It is hard to buy a CD player that’s not Photo CD compatible,” claims Radzyminski.

For a company trading in countries around the world, this allows considerable savings on production by removing the need for multiple formats.

It also allows for relatively simple local adaptation. The discs are very visual, with minimal text. The audio track carries much of the explanation. This can be readily taken out and redubbed into German, Japanese or whatever language is required.

For a complex training tool, the content of the training CDs is not proprietary, although the seminar and demo discs are. “It is core knowledge that you should have, for example, if you are engaged in CD-Recordable formats or digital imaging,” says Radzyminski. He says the discs attempt to lay down an understanding of the issues at work, such as inkjet versus thermal, versus colour laser printing, rather than simply selling Kodak’s products.

Kodak’s view is that learning about processes and how to use them will have a greater impact on sales than simply delivering the corporate message. “We may illustrate the issues with Kodak products, but we are not trying to teach about products such as the DG40 camera or CD media,” says Radzyminski.

CD-Roms have allowed Kodak to avoid the problem of time-consuming training. Radzyminski says: “Now we can inexpensively distribute information to our field-force, sales people, resellers and dealers. They can use it as a building block and then go on to face-to-face training about dealing with specific products, value propositions and how to sell.”

For a company like Kodak, which has both the technical expertise, commercial interest and need to take a corporate position, adopting a presentational format such as portfolio CDs seems logical. But it is an approach that other corporations are just as likely to follow.

The problems inherent in business presentations have long been recognised. They remove people from their productive work, are expensive and the “take out” message can get left behind once the lights come on. By building an educational tool that gives free access to structured learning and backing it up with testing prior to traditional training sessions, Kodak may have found a more effective teaching method.

As Radzyminski points out, CDs also have durability, which is perfect for a global corporation with continual staff turnover. “People come and go within Kodak. Some people move from the traditional side of the house into digital. There is a variety of levels of understanding. We may all be in the same Church, but we are not always singing from the same hymn book.”l

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