Streamline Your Training Costs with Streaming Media

Streaming Media?now a well accepted Internet technology. Yet streaming is still not being widely utilized by members of corporate training staffs. Why is this? I would venture to guess that lack of direct experience, hesitation to try new methods, and fears about costly "TV type stuff" have all contributed to make streaming seem like something too difficult to attempt successfully.

Granted, streaming media still has its limitations especially in the area of delivering full- screen, full-quality video. But most of the big players on the Internet, even those in head-to-head competition for the fast-growing streaming audience, agree that as bandwidth continues to improve, streaming provides a value added service to the Web. Live and on-demand streaming has definitely arrived on the Internet and on corporate intranets as part of a multimedia mix for all kinds of applications including sales, marketing, and training. (I think that the entertainment value need not be disputed.)

Streaming is economical and extremely affordable. Once the training production has been completed, there is no need for expensive tape, or CD-ROM, duplication and shipping charges. The stream is available 24 hours a day without human intervention and can remain on the company site for an indeterminate time. Streams can also be archived for easy access by new employees, customers and visitors. The cost of hosting and archiving these streams is minuscule compared with the costs associated with tape duplication, storage, mailing, and the personnel required to perform these tasks

What is streaming exactly? Streaming promises quick access to meaningful content without the aggravating wait for files to download. Downloading requires that files be sent to the user's PC in their entirety before they can be played; MP3 is a perfect example of this. The files then remain on the user's machine until they are deleted. Streaming continuously sends these same files, which have already been digitized, to the user's PC while the user is listening or watching. When the stream is ended, no data is left behind on the user's machine. Streams can also be password protected for additional security.

Why is this technology so well suited for training purposes? The first and most compelling answer is its availability. Unlike a video or tele-conference, the participant sets the time and place for the training activity, not the training provider. This is critical when you have a widely dispersed sales group, your company has remote locations, or workers who require training are on different shifts. This is also a very appealing feature for those seeking higher educational opportunities.

Maintaining training standards and techniques is facilitated with streaming media. The training provider is assured that all participants will see and hear the same program. It also makes the producer's job easier; he or she only has to "put-on" the program once Instead of many times and can put more emphasis on quality production values.

Streaming media can be seamlessly integrated with other tools as part of the same program. An audio stream could be used with still or 3-D graphics to talk about complex machinery, architectural plans, or engineering drawings. Use a video stream in conjunction with workbook exercises for the classroom. Combine audio, video, and graphics for a facilities tour for remote sales people and their customers. Utilize streaming as an effective employee orientation tool, also. Company manuals can be adapted for on-line use and be available on the company Intranet for training on demand.

Streaming media can provide the answer when a company needs to reach a great many consumers at one time. I spent several years in the juvenile products industry where product recalls are common. Many of those recalls involve products that require a simple mechanical adjustment that the end-user can easily perform when provided with clear instructions. Streaming media could be used to demonstrate the corrective procedure and save the company a small fortune by eliminating unnecessary phone calls and product returns.

Streaming media technology is fast becoming an accepted method for disseminating information as well as a technique to entertain and amuse us. Now that broadband connections are readily available, companies that are willing to harness these new techniques will be called "creators of value" and the innovators of the future.

Ronni Rhodes is the owner of WBC Imaging, an Internet company that specializes in web site enhancement utilizing streaming media technology. With her husband, Don, a digital media engineer, they work with companies to incorporate streaming as part of successful and meaningful sales and marketing programs.

Please direct all questions and comments to: [email protected] 520-742-5780

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