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Online Learning News – 26 October issues


A news and idea service of Bill Communications (Lakewood)
Tuesday, Oct. 26, 1999 Vol. 2, No. 31

A hundred and thirty countries. One portal. Notes & Domino
clean up a multi-lingual info-jumble:


1. Who's cheaper now -- laptops or desktops?
2. Shop around: How to price training-management systems
3. Some big -- and little -- unanswered questions
4. A distance learner's bill of rights
5. It knows your voice -- on a good day



Are laptops getting to be as cheap to operate as desktops? If
so -- and if portables proliferate as a result -- does that
change the way trainers deliver online learning?

The cost to operate portables at Intel Corp. now is just 16%
more than desktops, Robert Jecmen told participants at OnLine
Learning '99 in Los Angeles last week: $5,000 per year for
laptops compared with $4,300 for desktops.

Jecmen, an Intel vice president and head of its mobile-
computing unit, argues that laptops make employees more
productive by letting people work from home and on the road.

Any boost in productivity equivalent to one hour per week
offsets the higher laptop cost, he claims.

The annual total cost of ownership in the internal Intel
study covers "both direct and indirect costs," says Jecmen.
That includes capital costs, software, support and upgrades.

One reader is unconvinced. James B. Young ([email protected]),
telecommunications director with Hawaiian Electric Co. in
Honolulu, HI, argues that desktops are still clearly cheaper
to own and operate because:

o Laptops are more expensive to buy.

o Laptop upgrades and repairs are more expensive, "mostly
because many of the parts are proprietary," says Young.
"Also, laptops are more prone to breakage and other

o "Platform maintenance" for laptops is very expensive. "By
that," says Young, "I mean the time it takes to keep the
software on a laptop current. There are a lot of
automatic procedures for desktops, but most portable
maintenance is manual or requires expensive sales-force
automation software to automatically synchronize when a
laptop goes online."

OLL News asks readers:

Q Are laptops still clearly more expensive to buy and
maintain than desktops? Why?

Q On the other hand, if laptops are about as cheap as
desktops to buy and maintain -- how does that change your
training strategy?

Respond to [email protected]. Text only, please. No
attachments. But include a Web address if readers would find
the contents helpful.

Please provide your name, title, organization, what it does
and where it is. Please also include a phone number at which
OLL News can reach you.



The price-value equation is still mushy enough in training-
management systems that you'd better shop around before

"It's like buying a car. You have to go out and see what's
available, and then choose your price point," says Brandon
Hall ([email protected]).

Hall, a Sunnyvale, CA, consultant whose TRAINING 2000 session
in Atlanta Feb. 21 is called "Best Practices in Multimedia
and Internet Training," says price depends on features.

Another key consideration: whether the application is for
your training department or your full enterprise.

What's a fair price? "I'm not sure how to determine that
yet," confesses Hall. "People just have to do price-checking
-- pretty much off the price list, although they can
negotiate somewhat."

Pricing usually depends on the number of users, and sometimes
on number of servers you buy. Expect a tech-support cost of
15-20% of your total outlay per year, and "substantial
implementation costs as well to customize to your particular
configuration," cautions Hall.

Rene Lovato ([email protected]), senior Web-training
manager with Oracle Corp. in Redwood Shores, CA, has been
shopping training-management systems for two months.

For $100,000 to $250,000, says Lovato, you can buy an off-
the-shelf training-management system that will track online
training, learners, courses, and instructors -- as well as
provide collaboration and global registration.

More than 60 vendors offer some sort of training-management
system, says Jimmy W. Lewis ([email protected]), senior
account executive with one of them: Baltimore-based Syscom
Inc.'s TrainingServer software division.

Vendors weigh these pricing factors, says Lewis:

o Scalability. Are the applications designed for a single
user on a desktop? For up to 10 users in a work group?
For hundreds or thousands in a so-called "global"
environment? "Scalability does NOT necessarily affect
functionality," says Lewis. "A product geared towards the
global environment can easily lack specific functionality
provided by a work group-enabled product."

o Support. This is perhaps the biggest single cost for a
training-management vendor, says Lewis. Is this desk
staffed by one person or by 20? Does the vendor maintain
regional help desks in different time zones? Does the
vendor offer customer support via the Internet?

o Market presence. A vendor with 10 customers is more
likely to have a higher price than a vendor with 200,
Lewis claims, because it can spread operating expanses
over fewer customers.

o Strategy. Some vendors list their products at $2 million
and then discount when pushed. Others list a much lower
price and will walk away before offering a discount. Ask
a vendor up front about discount policies to ascertain
how realistic the initial price quote will be.



We invited attendees at the OnLine Learning '99 show in Los
Angeles last week to offer their Big Unanswered Questions
following the conference.

Here are some big-picture questions:


A corporate-university trainer with a major U.S. manufacturer
says: "While I am a strong advocate of online learning and
electronic performance support, there is a major problem! How
do you motivate individuals to embrace technological change
when they have years of experience and are firmly convinced
that they do not need it?"


Another attendee asks: "How can K-12 join the revolution at a
cost that is acceptable to school system budgets?"

And here are some very specific questions. Readers, if you
have ideas, please respond to [email protected].
Include your name, title, organization, what it does and
where it is, please. Also, include a phone number at which
OLL News can reach you.

No attachments, please. But include a Web address if you
like. Please use the given subject line -- e.g., When You
Fail, Auto E-Mail.


"Our Team CBT is looking for a method to have an Authorware-
created computer-based training program automatically send an
e-mail message to an individual who fails an examination. We
would like this to happen with no student interaction. We
currently use GroupWise version 4.1a for e-mail and
Authorware 4.0.3. Does anyone have an idea on how to do


"I'm still looking for a low-tech solution for converting MS
Word-based user guides with text and screen shots to the
corporate intranet. Saving file as HTML renders the screen
shots useless, regardless of the care taken in the screen-
capture process.

"I asked many participants of the conference and many
vendors. It was amazing that most can speak on the subject of
streaming media, but not provide a solution to something so

"MS Word is used as the original source of content capture in
order to maximize the subject-matter expert available time.
We would rather they provide a quality brain dump than have
to learn one more tool."



What do learners expect when they log onto a learning site?
That's what Web-based training developer Eric Parks
([email protected]) asked himself.

The result is his Distance Learner's Bill of Rights, which
will appear in Creative Training Techniques Newsletter
( in December.

Parks, a Fair Oaks, CA, Web-training developer, will lead two
sessions at TRAINING 2000 ( in
Atlanta Feb. 21-23: a session on extranets, and another on
why learners drop out before finishing online learning.

A few demands in the Parks manifesto:

o "Don't make me click and click and click to get to the
courses I want to take."

o "Respect that not all e-learning users have equal-
access speeds. Please label your site as to what browsers
are compatible, and the recommended access speed."

o "Warn me if I need a plug-in, and whether I must restart
after loading it."

o "Give me a phone number for a real, live person so I can
ask questions."

o "Don't expect me to read long text passages, page after
page, with little or no interaction."

If you would like to read Parks' full rant -- er, article --
go to Click
Subscriptions, fill out the form and submit it.

BUT ... you must do it by end of day Tuesday, Oct. 26. If you
get in under our ruthlessly efficient circulation
department's wire, the free issue you receive will be
December with the Parks piece -- yours to keep whether you
continue your subscription or not.



Can you use voice-recognition technology to accommodate a
disabled employee? Yes, says Mark D. West ([email protected]).

West, professional-development director with First Consulting
Group in Wayne, PA, says he shopped for voice-recognition
technology for a co-worker who suffered from repetitive-
stress injury and couldn't type more than a few words at a

West selected NaturallySpeaking Preferred from Dragon Systems
Inc. ( of Newton, MA. The
standard version costs $109.

Whatever you select, West offers this guidance:

o You get what you pay for. Inexpensive software won't
recognize as many words, and thus won't work as well as
more expensive software.

o Match the software to the need. If your employee is
doing word processing, buy a package that specializes in
word processing. If your employee is a programmer, it's
an entirely different problem.

o Expect an extended learning curve. It will take weeks,
perhaps months, for user and the software to learn
how to interact. The user must speak slowly and clearly,
and voice-rec software takes time to pick up the user's

o Don't expect perfection. Even the best voice-recognition
software will get 90% of the words right. "In regular
use, we found the accuracy to be in the 60%-70% range,"
says West, "which can be frustrating, and possibly
painful, for the user who has difficulty typing."


Up next: TRAINING 2000 ( in
Atlanta Feb. 21-23, with Nobel Prize winner Desmond Tutu,
MIT's Nicholas Negroponte, anthropologist Jennifer James,
Fortune's Tom Stewart and TV's Ben Stein.

IT'S WEEKLY. IT'S FREE! To receive OnLine Learning News,
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Or e-mail [email protected] with "unsubscribe
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Copyright 1999
Bill Communications Inc.


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