Lights, camera, interaction

Scott Beagrie tunes into technology revolutionising the corporate training
room

Every so often a development or technology comes along, capable of
revolutionising the market. In the corporate training sector interactivity has
this potential.

There is no shortage of new and highly innovative products making their
interactive presence felt; from clever cordless mice, tablet PCs, Bluetooth
devices (which can hook up and interact with other devices via a short-range
wireless technology) through to interactive whiteboards that allow the tutor to
annotate a screen as they guide learners through the subject.

The latter are tipped to be one of the fastest-shifting training
technologies. According to audio-visual analysts Decision Tree Consulting,
sales grew by more approximately 150 per cent from 11,099 units sold in 2001 to
27,359 last year. And the forecast for units sold by the end of 2003 is
predicted to be more than 45,000.

Until recently, the main application has been in educational markets,
accounting for 95 per cent of all sales. But with an interactive generation of
students already swarming into the corporate world, this kind of technology
will have to become the norm.

Interactive

It is easy to see why interactive whiteboards have taken off – they
effectively, bring together the trainer’s favourite tools of traditional flip
chart/dry wiper board and projector and screen. But it is also because studies
have proven that interactivity has a positive effect on learning.

"Research has found board interactivity results in people learning the
application and synthesis of concepts much faster and more effectively than
through a laptop/projector model," says Kevin Martin of Saville Audio
Visual, which distributes interactive whiteboards including Smart Technologies’
Smart board.

But this is just one of a host of technological advancements. Here is our
guide to interactive products to watch.

Throughlines (Static & Motion)

What is it? A video platform using a combination of audience response
technology and DVD playback to enable course delegates to interact with what
they are viewing and determine the direction of the presentation.

It works with groups of between 20 and 2,000 people who, using individual
wireless keypads, can determine the consequences of hypothetical situations
during the video presentation. Their responses are then computed automatically
and the DVD playback continues with the story line which received the majority
vote.

What does it offer the learner? It transforms learners from passive
receptors to participants who can influence the programme’s direction. New
York-based developer Static & Motion is promoting the technology as a
tailored training tool – particularly for subjects that require high levels of
interaction such as developing coaching skills, promoting diversity, or dealing
with sexual harassment.

Tried and tested? Users include CMP Media and Citigroup

Cost: Systems are bespoke configurations so price varies widely

More info: www.static-motion.com
www.throughlines.com

Optionpower (Option Technologies Interactive)

What is it? A software add-on that converts PowerPoint to a fully
interactive presentation tool for trainers and presenters. Trainers can receive
immediate feedback from their class using wireless handheld keypads. The
answers can be deployed via drop-down menus and tools, and new slides generated
in seconds based on their responses. A group of learners in a new product
training session, for instance, could be polled on what they think are its
unique selling points. Responses can be tabulated and turned into a slide
within seconds.

What does it do for the learner? Ends ‘death by PowerPoint’ syndrome
by encouraging participation. Interactive group response systems such as
OptionPower make delegates feel they have a stake in the outcome.

Tried and tested? Debuted at February’s Training 2003 conference in
Atlanta. Expect appearances at UK trade shows later this year.

Cost: OptionPower starter system with 10-keypad (£1,350)

More info: www.optiontechnologies.com

ACTIVboard (TDS)

What is it? An interactive whiteboard that allows the trainer to
annotate over text, animation, movies and audio. At its simplest, it can be
used as a projection screen but married with a PC, LCD projector and the
proprietary ACTIVpen, it becomes a powerful and interactive medium for the
trainer. ACTIVpen is a cordless pen which controls the BOARDmate2 software that
runs on ACTIVboard.

Software’s features include an electronic flipchart, which can be shared
across videoconferencing sessions, and a virtual floating toolbar with a range
of desktop annotation tools such as highlighter pens. It can also run Microsoft
Windows applications.

What does it offer the learner?

It allows the trainer to create dynamic content and instantly react to
responses from the group, heightening their involvement. Its interactivity can
also help convey complex theories that prove difficult to get across when using
other methods. Using ACTIV-board’s videoconferencing capability, learners can
also hook up with other learners across the globe to share ideas, notes and
diagrams, and even edit documents in real time.

Tried and tested? Kent Police for training purposes in its new
communication facility

Cost: starts from around £1,300

More info: www.tdshouse.co.uk

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