Designing a training program for the company intranet takes more than trying to adapt your old stand-up program to the computer age.

First, be clear about why you are going forward, says Vee Nelson, president of V. Nelson Associates in Atlanta. " Everybody today likes to jump on bandwagons. Web training is cheaper because you can update it. But people tend to forget this is training and you need to be systematic about what you' re trying to train people to do. Instructional design process has to be part of the whole package. A lot of people want to skip that step because they already have something out there. But if users get turned off [ by intranet training] , they will be reluctant to try it in the future. So give thought to it. Determine what you' re doing up front rather than as you go along."

Intranet training isn' t automatically the best use of time and money, says Ann W. Parkman, executive vice president of The Center for Effective Performance Inc. in Atlanta. The intranet can distribute information quickly, but that doesn' t assure that the people on the other end have mastered necessary skills.

" If the main thing you want to do is to describe a new product, it can do that. If you really need to know they can sell it, you need more interactivity, more realism," and evidence that the users have mastered the knowledge in ways they can use, Parkman says. Sometimes that' s too expensive to do well on the intranet.

Design Pitfalls

Parkman sees two kinds of pitfalls in intranet-training design. One happens when a company tries to put all the bells and whistles on, like those that are available on CD ROM. They don' t want it to look less lively, but it' s frustrating for users because it slows them down.

" The other end is when a company just uses it as electronic E-mail, sending out information without a lot of thought about how the user will use it," she says. Either extreme gets in the way of the training.

Nelson recommends going directly to the audience to determine their learning styles. " Often companies say, ' Let' s just put it on the Web,' but they have to make sure [ employees] will have the time and self discipline to learn" that way.

And work closely with your Information Technology department, she says, because technical parameters will determine the features you can use.

Customize Training

An advantage of intranet, even more than CD ROM, is that it offers multiple paths, Nelson says. " You can have core training and then create learning paths for sales, technical and customer services [ employees] . You can customize."

Research shows that quality is more important with audio than graphics, Nelson says, an issue because audio and video can eat up a lot of space.

Eating up time and space is one of the problems of trying to convert a traditional training program, she adds. " If you have been using videos in a stand-up class, your intranet system may not handle videos well. If it takes 20 minutes to download, you' ll lose your learner."

Test your new training program with actual users and conduct a pilot if possible.

And then evaluate the program, says Parkman. " Did the people learn what we wanted to teach them. Did they actually apply it on the job? Did it have the business results that our clients are looking for? That needs to be done later so you can see the impact training has or hasn' t had. Make sure people don' t complete the training until they show they have the competencies."

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