Suggested Visuals:
People working on VR with helmets, and force-feedbacks

What are the trends in corporate learning? Think back to the corporate environment of twenty years ago: a person joined a company, climbed the corporate ladder, stayed for life, and, at retirement, received a gold watch and pension. One career per lifetime has changed to an average of five careers per person, and lifelong training is required just to stay current.

The other primary trend is using multiple media - a fusion of digital media is most likely because it leverages the strengths of each media to reach all learners. This creates the newest training/learning model.

To understand how frequently skills updates are needed to cope with the business environment, look at this example: a programmer/analyst working in the 1970s had skills that remained current for 5-8 years. Today the average life cycle for technical certification lasts only five months !

This creates the problem facing corporate America - how to keep employees current in certifications, capabilities, regulations, and business environment changes. This requires an incredible amount of training time away from the office which results in lost opportunity costs. Executives today agree that there is never a good or convenient time to take people away from their jobs for training. It can be costly and slows productivity, yet training is critical in keeping a company's workforce up-to-date and up-to-speed with the latest information they need to remain competitive.

Economic forces have combined with technology to create a corporate environment that seeks alternatives to traditional classroom training. Business magazines report that corporate trainers are especially interested to go high tech. They are using technology such as the internet and CD-ROMS to teach managers everything from how to use software to the principles of finance and staff diversity. International Data Corp. reckons that technology-delivered training will grow from 1.9 billion in 1998 to $2,7 billion this year and hit $7.8 billion in 2002.

There are estimates that Corporate Universities will provide 50 percent of their training by technology in the first year of the millennium. Motorola University, Disney University, McDonald's Hamburger University, and Sears University will be the players.

Just-in-time (JIT) training, information delivered to an individual at the right time, exactly when it is needed, is a sharp departure from attending a week-long "core dump" of information, much of which is usually forgotten because it is not applied immediately.

Microsoft uses JIT training to deliver new product information, and product updates, in a timely fashion. With the introduction of their Drivetime Audio, field technicians can access online audio, visual, and text bite-sized bits of information, from Microsoft when they need it. (

To assist with some of the toughest personnel issues facing company managers, The Network Connection (TNCi), has developed an innovative JIT Information program called "The Consultant". Imagine a manager has an employee with a bad attitude, but (s)he does not have hours to determine how to handle the employee. With a mouse click, the manager accesses "The Consultant" and finds a short video dramatization to guide him through the situation. Customers pay only for the segment they watch of this desktop management training.

American Honda is using a variation of this real-time and courseware-on- demand desktop delivery which is specifically tailored to their needs by using scenarios their employees have encountered with customers and employees.

Flavors of Teleconferencing:

Kaiser Permanente ranks as one of corporate America's distance learning pioneers. This national videoconferencing network, connects 150 locations nationwide. The core curriculum includes programs that lets staffers earn a baccalaureate and masters degree of nursing at a distance, as well as continuing education courses for physicians. Kaiser Permanente has provided more than 62,000 hours of training and is piloting an overseas expansion.

Bob Bodine, Kaiser Permanente's director of AV communications resources, says they save at "least 1.5 million per year over (using) traditional techniques, primarily by eliminating travel costs - and that's just for physicians' drivetime in the northern California area alone".

Another flavor of teleconferencing is to have renown experts present to remote users. In a monthly program from LiveWare5, management instruction is offered to subscribers, via teleconferencing, from experts who would be cost-prohibitive for an individual organization to contract. The participants from corporate sites throughout the country, get to ask specific questions and get direct answers from the experts.

Even small organizations can use teleconferencing to train personnel at remote locations, reduce training-related travel costs, and increase the bottom-line.

A point-to-point teleconferencing system that runs on regular telephone lines and uses a television as a screen, can be purchased for less than $500 per site.

Desktop Virtual Reality:

Realtime interactive visual stimulation, or Virtual Reality (VR), used since the 1960's for pilot training, is now available on the desktop and is being used in the medical field, for architectural simulations, and for marketing purposes. A dental software VR program uses a haptic tool to actually feel the hardness or softness of a virtual patient's mouth. Using a laser-like pen, which simulates a tool a dentist would use in scraping or probing, the user explores a lifelike mouth. Hitting the hard enamel of the (virtual) tooth's surface, the computer calculates how much force is being applied to the enamel and feeds back the feeling of a dental tool coming in contact with an actual tooth. These force-feedback simulations are used to train medical students, physicians preparing for delicate surgeries, as well as more mundane tasks such as drivers-education.

The most successful corporate distance programs use a variety of technologies, and combine them with instructor-led assignments prior to, and following, the desktop or teleconferencing sessions.

from Teleconference Magazine, September 10, 1999, by Joanne Carle-Accornero