Corporate training via networks -problems and possibilities
Timo Väliharju, Researcher
University of Tampere
The development of medium industry has been the head feeling dizzy during the last few years. The different communication technological applications, the products of the entertainment industry with multimedia and hypermedia qualities, have spread as a part of the operation environment of the companies. Via the computers and networks it is possible to access the "virtual world" although it is difficult to perceive as a entity. The services, information amount and communication services in the virtual world available, are so wide and complex that it causes to the knowledge control of the companies quite new demands as well as to the cognitive action of the individual. The information entities and the multiformity of the different communication methods can be difficulty controlled and the very complex to connect as a part of the operations of the different companies normal functions. In spite of this, utilization of the networks in different forms has become an essential part of the business strategies of the companies and of the operation culture. To the certain type of medium companies the utilization and developing of the networks and of the new network innovations are the basic and living condition of the business. One can have also gradually noticed that such companies whose central area of business is not the production of the new medium or its utilization, begins a benefit from the possibilities brought by the networks. For example the marketing, the data transfer of the corporation and the communication will benefit from the new possibilities that the networks are opening. In the future this development will strengthen and the utilization of the networks will become more essential part of the competition environment.
Problems and challenges when integrating on-line educational software applications in corporate environment
In this part of my presentation I will try to clarify some problems one might encounter when leading the educational software application project. The ideas presented here are not comprehensive but will give some point of views of what one should take in to the consideration in projects of certain type. With this I will basically mean extensive network environments based on a large number of servers and at least a hundreds of computers and work stations.
Findings and challenges
It takes time to pinpoint the exact objectives of the project. Corporate environments in witch the software application should work are usually very complex. Therefore it is essential to plan carefully that what needs to be done and how. One can often end up in dead end and have to define new perspectives when solving the problems encountered.
When a project begins, the need for the resources of the project must be designed and it must be secured that the necessary support and labour will be available to carry out the project. It is important to think about the project from the points of view of the coordination of graphical design, the production of the content and the programming of the project. Software production projects are nowadays so complex and demanding that seldom all characteristic which are needed to carry out of the project combine in one human being.
Finding out what are the objectives of the corporation development strategies in near future. This includes the plans in modifying and changing the technical infrastructure of networks. Otherwise you might develop software that will not work in network environment when completed.
It is also essential to find certain key persons or teams that can take responsibility of the certain project areas for example content production from the corporation point of view. There should always be expertise from the technical as well as corporate management and knowledge of how things are done by the certain corporation.
The physical structure of the corporate network environment will have an impact on how the software program will be installed and what will be the content of the finished product. There will be different solutions for the installation of the program depending will it be in Internet, Extranet or Intranet. The same point of view will be valid also in content production. You can not place essential material in Internet concerning the corporate internal ways of conduct everyday actions. In Extranet will make possible to place different sectors to outside users and inside users but there will be a risk in information security of the corporation because of the connection from Intranet to the Internet though the will also be firewall preventing unauthorized accesses.
There will also be computers with low performance in corporation that will complicate the software production. The is always compromises that have to be done in order that the software will work in different computers. It is very difficult to make a program that work in every computer and will satisfy users different, usually interactive features that should be in use.
Is it also difficult to choose the suitable programming environment. One should think what kind of requirements of interactivity are expected and what are the resources available. One can choose from basic programming languages like Java and Perl and from common network programming language HTML which is usually used in way or in other. Java has a problem concerning the operating system. Java will work only in 32 bit operating environment so it is impossible to make it work in for example Windows 3.x versions. Though Java Script and CGI can be used in 16 bit environment. In general it is easier to develop on-line software in 32 bit environment. One chapter is also the plug-ins that can be used to develop interactive software qualities in networks. One quite commonly used (at least in some cases) is Macromedia Shockwave. Using plug-ins can create problems when installing it in servers but can be almost always installed locally without problems. In corporate environment that produces usually problems because of the work hours needed to install plug-ins locally one by one. Though one advantage is more flexible programming environment when using some kind of development tool like Macromedia Director, because it gives to the programmer more possibilities to make decisions outside of the manuscript and modify the ideas in the program. When using "pure" programming language like Java there is wider possibilities to construct different characteristic within the program but it also needs very detailed manuscript what should be done and how.
There is also challenging to integrate the programme as a part for the ways of action of the corporation. It requires a commitment from the corporation to the program objectives and takes time in order to accomplish the objectives. Therefore it is important to evaluate the operating of the program package in the corporation and to develop further its use both programmatically and functionally.
Possibilities in general
It is possible to reorganize different kinds of corporate training areas in network environment. One requirement for that is that corporate management will commit themselves to the general educational objectives of what are the ways of arranging personnel training and how networks can be used as a part of it.
The one important benefit in the long run will be reduction of the personnel training costs, especially in large national and multinational corporations. Using networks for personnel training can be an important part of corporations every day actions instead of that training is separated for its own entity. For a part of the personnel, separately organized training is more like recreation event than training towards certain objectives. Via networks training can be organized naturally as a part of employees normal work.
However, one has to say that personnel training organized via networks do not totally substitute traditional ways of training. Communication via networks will succeed to the certain point but it is not as such substitute of face to face interaction. Advanced videoconferencing systems, improved groupware systems and faster network connections will in future increase the possibilities to arrange personnel training via networks. Arranging training and educational courses via networks is so far at its best as a part of whole educational package including for example classroom teaching, exercises of different subjects, tutors and group work based working etc.
However, different training materials and educational software products via networks are the future of corporate personnel training. Gradually it will gain room from the traditionally arranged personnel training. It is difficult to predict the speed of the changes but the development to this direction has already begun fast.