Long before the economic recession crippled corporate training budgets, online video conferencing technology was seen as a major destination for future training programs. A 2003 article published in Chief Learning Officer magazine and written by Frank L. Greenagel proclaimed the use of Web conferencing tools as “The Future of Training.”
The hundreds of vendors in the online training space at the time were extremely bullish on its prospects. “The financial model,” wrote Greenagel, “which can show considerable savings for e-learning over classroom-based instruction, may become more important than the learning model.”
In the eight years since, the speed at which this technology moved to maturity has slowed. During the recession, training budgets were among the first things cut and traditional training methods became the crutch leaned on by learning leaders through the brunt of the downturn.
Today, as a cautious recovery has many training organizations beginning to open up their wallets, training is resuming its movement toward innovative technologies. Chief among such innovations is moving learning systems and applications to the cloud.
Cloud-based technology systems are making Web conferencing technologies more affordable. Mid-sized companies — once unable to fathom the notion of using multi-faceted video conferencing tools to conduct their training — are starting to take a shine to it.
The low capital expenditure associated with cloud-based technology has enabled more smaller firms to experiment with online video training tools, said Tom Toperczer, vice president of marketing with Nefsis Corp., a vendor in the video conferencing space. As a result, Toperczer said, training has become one of the top three uses of Nefsis’ primary Web conferencing software.
Nefsis’ multiparty video conferencing is driven through the cloud. This allows users to access the technology across varying connectivity conditions anywhere. Toperczer said because of Nefsis’ range of video conferencing features — multi-person video, including large-room views, collaboration tools inside the platform — the overworked training leader can conduct live, classroom-like training sessions, without having to bear constant travel.
“Most instructors are multi-model and they don’t want to be constrained,” he said. With the developments Nefsis and other vendors are making in the video conferencing space, corporate trainers can use old-school training methods through new-school technologies without having to input expensive servers or equipment.
That is the approach taken by Advancial, a 70,000-member credit union with roughly $900 million in assets and14 branches across the country. Aside from using Nefsis’ cloud-based conferencing tool as a means to conduct live, staff-wide meetings with all of its employees across all of its branches, Advancial uses the tool for training and development as well.
“Video is a wonderful way to engage and be able to see each other,” said Laurelle Campbell, director of employee development at Advancial. She said Advancial uses Nefsis’ multi-faceted video functionalities to conduct much of its technical training throughout its branches, which range from Texas to Alaska.
Because Advancial is a financial institution in charge of processing thousands of transactions daily, it’s imperative that its employees are well-versed in a number of complex computer tasks and technical functions.
“We started really using the idea [of] if we had video, we could see their body language,” Campbell said. Being able to view and interact much like an instructor would in a classroom — but over the Web in a virtual environment — is what makes the technology attractive. “I could see if they [were] understanding the information … in Nefsis we’re able to pass the ball, so I could pick out somebody in our audience and say, ‘Hey, can you do this virtual transaction for me?’ And they would be able to do it as if they were doing it in their own system. Not only am I watching them, but I’m looking and seeing if they’re understanding while they are doing the transaction.”
The ability to conduct room-based video conferencing, which lots of people are able to view together opposed to one talking head viewing another, has made the collaboration more efficient than some traditional online meeting platforms. The only drawback to these tools, Campbell said, has been on-boarding employees to use them.
“I have seen a small learning curve, depending on the generation,” she said. “Millennials are instantaneous. They can pick up a mouse and just go, whereas prior generations we would need to walk them through.”
But once employees get started with the technology, Campbell said they are more engaged in the learning process because they get to use and interact with the technology along with their learning. As a result, retention of information issued through certain training courses is more effective.
“Because they are on video,” she added, “they are showing that they are paying attention and that learning is happening.”
Frank Kalman is an associate editor of Chief Learning Officer magazine. He can be reached at fkalman@CLOmedia.com.
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