Choose an on-line training system

of investing in an on-line training system, but don’t know how to choose?
Joanna Springer offers a cribsheet of questions to put to potential suppliers

you even begin to consider the platform over which to deliver your training,
you must of course ask yourself what your training needs and objectives are.
Top line objectives might typically be to reduce training costs and to train
more people, increase access and widen participation, improve content retention
or revitalise your programmes.

issues and objectives will undoubtedly fall out of these top-line descriptions,
so be as comprehensive as you can in setting these out. Think about such issues

Are there standard training courses that everyone must take?

Can you use your existing training courses?

Will learners and tutors be able to interact as you need them to?

Are learners allowed to study at their own pace or will deadlines be involved?

Will all your staff receive the same training service regardless of location?

answers to these kinds of questions should direct you to a solution which will
fit your needs, but don’t overlook one of the main requirements of a training
management system – that it should be easy to use.

your objectives is not only about content and support – it is vital to consider
carefully the needs of your learner audience. What type of training environment
are they used to? Will they be receptive to change and the introduction of an
on-line training system? Unless people buy into this new way of training, it
won’t get used, so think about the way you will market and promote it

is a wide range of on-line training packages in the marketplace and each has a
different pricing structure. In an ideal world you would calculate the usage
costs for training and apportion this as your budget for implementation. But
there are several peripheral issues relating to licensing costs that you will
need to take into account.

establish how much implementing an on-line training system will cost, ask some
very specific questions:

What format will my materials need to be stored in?

Will I need to create or re-create my training materials? If the answer is yes
this will cost time and money.

What is the licensing structure, eg per user, per workstation, storage costs?

What are the hardware/software requirements?

Will system training cost extra?

What is the work involved for set-up, ie staff time and resource?

the largest chunk of your costs to be eaten up by the preparation and implementation
stages as this involves loading your content, staff training and licensing.

a clear idea on budget it is now time to choose your supply partner.

into a new training system is a big commitment and clearly the last thing you
want is to invest in a product and then be left alone to fathom it out. Some
online training systems can be bought off-the-shelf with limited after-sales
support and training, which can leave you feeling lost.

looking at systems, find out who is behind them and how they work with their
clients. Satisfy yourself about:

Their client base – do you fit into it?

Will they work with you to understand and meet your training objectives?

What is their customer service policy?

Will they just deliver a training system, or will they help to make it work?

How long have they been in the market place and do they have a proven record
for on-line training delivery?

Has the system been developed in close partnership with educational or training
organisations to ensure they address the real issues behind remote and
work-based online training?

will have to work closely with your chosen partner so make sure that you get on
with key people who will work with you on its implementation.

deciding on your training materials, make the most of your existing course
content. Some training materials will easily lend themselves to online
delivery, some others may need to be revised. If the content works, then the
training will probably work. Materials designed for remote delivery may be
particularly suitable for an online system.

many packages provide you with tools to convert your existing content into the
format suitable for use over the system’s platform, this can be a difficult
process. Some on-line systems will let you use your material in its original
format without any authoring work.

has shown that people are most receptive to receiving small digestible chunks
of information through their PC rather than downloading huge documents to work
from, so design your content with this in mind. Some on-line systems let you
enhance your materials with voice commentary and additional notes that can make
the materials feel more “human” when received via a PC.

your course material and installing it on to an online system can be time
consuming but for some systems it will prove to be easier than you think.

your material is established any good online system will feature simple
maintenance tools which will allow you to easily keep the information up to

and learner interaction is one of the main motivational factors in a training
programme. A PC may be excellent for many things, but it cannot replace human
contact. On-line training systems offer various facilities for learner support
so it is worth spending time at this stage to ensure that support needs are
carefully considered and that the system can meet them.

key issues are:

How are learners able to contact their tutors?

Should tutors know which learners are logged on and where?

How is training information passed between learners and tutors?

How do tutors provide feedback to learners?

Where is work stored? Is it secure?

What level of “on-demand” support do your require for learners? And can

on-line system under consideration meet this need?

Can learners’ progress be audited and tracked through the system?

online environments offer different support mechanisms, so it is important to
find out which mechanisms would meet your organisation’s requirements.

you have the right partner to work with you, the rest will follow on.

Springer works at IMS Publishing, creator of the Link2Learning on-line
education and training system used in the educational and corporate markets

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