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A Stronger Commitment to Training

We were lucky to land an interview with Philip Tobias, a versatile technical and marketing communications professional. Through his business, Philip Tobias Enterprises, he provides a broad range of services to clients in many industries. Based in Boulder, Colorado, Tobias has served clients worldwide. His services include technical writing, training, marketing communications, graphic arts, multimedia, and websites.

Prior to starting his own business, Tobias edited training tutorials for Quark, a worldwide leader in publishing software. Following that, he led the team responsible for developing an award-winning series of computer based training programs for Eclipse, an enterprise application developer.

While at Eclipse, Tobias cofounded the Denver Metro E-Learning Developers (DMELD) group. It began as an Authorware developers group, but now includes members working in all aspects of training. Tobias continues to serve as DMELD’s E-Mail List Moderator and Sponsorship Coordinator.

Q. Tell us about two things that have challenged you in the training profession today.

While the specific challenges are constantly changing, they often come back to the two things that never seem to change: time and money.

Time affects everything. Companies always want to know how quickly we can develop training. But for effective training, they need to support an adequate development cycle. They also need to ensure that they support their learners by providing an environment that is conducive to learning. Managers need to allot time for training so it is a part of the normal workday.

Additionally, the challenge of never having enough money will never go away. Trainers are always being asked to do more with less. Thankfully some of the tools we use today allow more efficient training development. But organizations must appreciate the value of training – and show their appreciation with sufficient training time and budgets.

Q. What might organizational learning look like 10 years from now?

Sorry, my crystal ball is in the shop this week for repair. So my forecasting probably won’t be any better than the local TV weather report.

But I can instead tell you what I would like to see in the future. I would like to see a stronger commitment to training. Organizations need to realize that well-trained workers are the key to more effective, more profitable organizations that better retain happier customers.

Similarly, organizations need to realize that having well-trained customers is also beneficial. Companies can save money if comprehensive documentation and effective learning resources are made available to customers. Providing customers with easy-to-find and use resources like this can cut down on support costs. It can also improve customer retention and brand loyalty.

With that in mind, organizations must make a real commitment to ongoing training – both inside and outside the organization. Inside, training should include a mix of mentoring, such as one-to-one training, along with online and other training. Both inside and outside, we’ll probably continue to see an increased use of Webinars and screencasts, more intelligent wikis and collaboration systems, along with more focused online courseware.

Q. Could you envision a 21st century training program for us? What might it look like?

It would be nice to see more immersive, engaging experiences. A colleague recently remarked that the Internet had, in many respects, set training back for a time. Immediately prior to the advent of Internet-based training, we were able to provide a nice mix of engaging multimedia in our training. When furnishing training on discs, we could include audio, video, complex simulations, and so forth. But the initial bandwidth concerns of Internet deployment meant that much of that multimedia had to be left behind.

In many cases, we’re just now beginning to see the return of a broader mix of engaging elements in online training. When that becomes an every day reality, we may have started to begin real 21st century training.

Q. What books, blogs, and/or magazines would you recommend for our readers?

One of my favorites for practical tips is The Rapid eLearning Blog, by Articulate’s Tom Kuhlman. I also subscribe to the Learning Solutions Magazine, The eLearning Guild publications, and others, including Bloomfire.

In addition to publications, local groups can be a great resource. Here in Boulder, we’re lucky to have the Boulder Writers Alliance. Membership includes subscriptions to helpful e-mail lists, along with educational programs. And of course, the Denver Metro E-Learning Developers is another great local resource.

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