Confronting the mayhem in Media and Marketing

Tech Tools for Training: Part 1

As the summer approaches, many printers may find themselves in the cyclical slowdown associated with sunny weather and summer vacations. Make use of this slow period by implementing an internal training program that utilizes the best of Web 2.0 applications. The smallest of print shops can now take advantage of robust software that traditionally was only available to the largest of companies. Any good training program needs to relay information efficiently across many different media to capitalize on everyone’s unique learning style. Online document collaboration, instructional videos, video conference calls, webinars, and company wide wikis, are the Web 2.0 ways to equip any team with the information to be productive.

Brainstorming and Whiteboards

Tools like Dabbleboard and mindmeister allow a group of colleagues to brainstorm and map out the initial stage of any project. Dabbleboard is an online whiteboard whose main advantage is through online collaboration with colleagues that are geographically spread out. On the other hand, mindmeister is more akin to a charting tool where topics can be grouped and interlinked.

Document Collaboration

Authoring any educational document can be very time consuming, but a better approach is through collaboration with your colleagues. Standard editing and markup tools have been around with Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat for many years. The problem with stand alone document software, besides the cost of the program, is the lack of instant feedback and grouping of all suggestive corrections for the document.

Google Docs solves the problem of online collaboration allowing multiple users to be assigned as editors to a single document that is shared online through each user’s Google account. Although the online text editor lacks many of the features of Word, the instant collaboration and revision tracking compensates for the features that are missing. The document can be exported to many different file formats including PDF after the final edit. Perhaps Google Doc’s greatest advantage is the tight integration with the other Google services including the Calendar and gMail.

Another solution for document collaboration when using Microsoft Word is from a program called TextFlow. Textflow allows multiple Word files from various reviewers to be combined into a single document that lists all corrections. If using Microsoft Word 2007, similar functionality is built directly in the software.

Instructional Video

For over a year, I have been using Camtasia to capture on-screen software tutorials. I find this piece of software offered by TechSmith, who also makes SnagIt screen capture software, indispensable. Camtasia is extremely easy to use; I was able to produce quality training videos without any training. Below is a list of features in Camtasia that are useful when creating software tutorials.

Highlights of Camtasia

  1. Highlights mouse and mouse clicks
  2. Intelligent zoom capability to focus on areas of importance
  3. Easy voice over after video capture
  4. Audio enhancements to boost the sound level
  5. Export to a variety of formats including WMA, flash, etc.
  6. Export video to be hosted on the Screencast servers for easy web viewing

For video tutorials that involve physical equipment such as printing presses, the new class of web camcorders fit the requirements. Currently, there is a lot of competition in this area but I personally like the Flip Mino HD or the Kodak Zi6. Both record in high definition allowing the smallest detail to be captured which is particularly helpful if explaining the preventative maintenance of any equipment. Recording fast motion, like a press in operation, requires the camcorder to be mounted on a tripod for the best results.

Now that your training masterpiece has been captured and edited, you must decide how to make the video available for your audience. Uploading to an online video service is probably the best choice – not only will the video be backed up but can also be viewed through any Internet connection.  YouTube is perhaps the most recognizable brand name in online video, but the service has limitations. In addition to their pesky file uploading, most training videos will stretch beyond YouTube’s upload restrictions of 100 mb in size and 10 minutes in length. There are other services such as Blip.tv and Viddler that extend beyond the basics of YouTube while also offering larger and longer videos. I particularly like the customization options available on Viddler and the ability to record directly from an attached webcam. An example of a Viddler post can be found at Magiccom’s blog.

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