By Mark Gross, President of DCL, appearing in GCN
The need for effective training – whether it addresses complexity, liability, risk, regulation or an increased emphasis on customer service – is increasing for all organizations, including government agencies. With training so integral to the health and success of any organization, one might think that the utmost time, care and resources would be devoted to it. But that’s often not the case.
A recent survey conducted by DCL and DITA Strategies targeting the training and learning industry teased out big themes that should be used to improve the creation of training content, the delivery methods and formats and much more.
So what did this survey reveal? Surprisingly, it showed that most training and learning materials are still being created in PDF, PowerPoint, Word and other unstructured formats, with the top formats being:
- PowerPoint (66.14 percent)
- PDF (50.39 percent)
- Word (48.82 percent)
- XML (29.13 percent)
The top delivery methods cited were slide presentations, printed materials, online course and PDFs.
Why are these numbers significant?
Training materials in unstructured formats – PowerPoint, PDF or Word – are difficult to use in platforms other than the ones they were initially created for. Print-focused or unstructured content cannot be used with mobile devices, learning systems, tools for the disabled and other emerging delivery methods. These formats also have low reusability with new and emerging technologies.
XML-based materials, however, are slowly gaining traction. They will make it easier for organizations to keep content up-to-date and enable delivery of more effective learning experiences on multiple platforms down the road.
Training, by its very nature, needs to be kept current; therefore, creating training content should be as easy and efficient as possible. But responses to the question, “What are your greatest challenges in developing and delivering training content today?” show many are hobbled by out-of-date information and maintenance coupled with reduced budgets.
Professionals who create and deliver training and educational content face a number of challenges, including the lack of resources to maintain content; the inability to get actionable reporting or analytics, and an overall accessibility problem. Considering the formats and delivery methods noted above, this is not surprising. One influences the other, creating barriers to effective training programs.
Yet there are some examples to the contrary. Historically, training materials for prison guards had been available in print form only – 2,000 pages of it. The American Prison Data Systems, (APDS), which delivers education solutions for the corrections market, now provides training through a secure portal accessible at any time to officers using tablets. They can study and review whenever they have a few minutes, and the tablets provide testing, diagnostics and feedback – while also providing valuable reporting and analytics on progress.
Today's training challenges all stem from the formats and delivery methods being used for training materials. People are more content-driven today than ever, accessing news, TV, films and email from almost anywhere on a multitude of devices. Why should training be any different? The sooner training materials go digital, the more prepared agencies will be for the future.