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The TrainingZONE LearningWIRE – Issue 7



LearningWIRE - Issue 7
9 April 1998

A FREE electronic newsletter for net enabled people engaged in training, learning, coaching and staff development.

Copyright (C) 1998 Sift plc. All rights reserved.
May be reproduced in any medium for non-commercial purposes as long as attribution is given.

In this issue

  • From the editor
  • What's New?: 'Training Matters' Exhibition <-----NEW FEATURE !
  • Internet musings
  • Training-related News Groups
  • A surf through Penbo's learning log
  • About Sift
  • How to Subscribe

From the editor
As promised, this issue carries a review of several exhibitors at The recent 'Training Matters' exhibition in London. If you were not able to visit yourself, I hope you this article points you towards some interesting developments.

At the end of March, Sift launched the homepage for the TrainingZONE website at Due to pressure from other web developments, this launch has taken longer than planned. At the time of writing you can use the site to search through back issues of LearningWIRE, and new visitors can register for their free subscription. Over the next few weeks we plan to add a whole series of feature which will make the site informative, instructional and interactive. As with LearningWIRE, our aim is to constantly evolve these resources to make them as valuable as possible to the web-connected training and learning community, and to respond to the ideas and suggestions you make.

Following the product review of Facilicom in Issue #6, Mary Margaret Palmer writes to advise that the best way of cleaning the Posts is to drop them in a sink of water, or rinse them in the shower, then dry in a towel.

After a short break, watch out for the next issue after Easter with more site reviews and guest articles.

Tim Pickles
Editor, LearningWIRE and TrainingZONE

What's new?: 'Training Matters' Exhibition

The largest UK conference and exhibition devoted to training and learning related matters was held this year at Olympia from 31 March to 2 April. As usual, it was promoted by the IPD with financial sponsorship from The Guardian. I spent a day browsing around what was on offer. Around 150 organisations were represented across two exhibition halls. They included function venues, publishers, software designers, equipment suppliers, government services, recruitment agencies, standards agencies, consultancy groups, course providers, and several others.

My overall impression was disappointing. Who are all these people really speaking to? There were a lot of delegates attending the exhibition but not much evidence of a large volume of business being agreed. Many of the services and products looked rather tired. Sure, there were some new product launches, but the whole event lacked any brilliant star performer, or any truly exciting development to really catch the imagination.

Having said that, it was a good opportunity to look at what others are doing, and several stands did catch my attention.

I like the range of physical training materials designed by MTa Consultancy. The MTa Kit is a colourful set of construction tools (imagine a giant Lego set) which can be flexibly used for a wide range of problem-solving, creativity, team-building and decision- making activities. Prices start at around 500 (UKP) but the materials are versatile, robust and attractive. MTa don't yet have a website so you'll have to request a product brochure by email from

Also on the products side was Facilicom (reviewed in Issue #6), who demonstrated a new range of table-top games and mind puzzles using the Facilicom materials. These could be useful energisers and problem-solving activities to enliven a more serious workshop. Details at

On a very professional stand, the BBC were demonstrating their extensive range of video material in the BBC for Business series. Over 100 titles, with half costing less than 200 to buy and almost all priced at under 400, these videos are competitively priced when compared to commercial renting. There are titles based on well known TV series but many are also specially commissioned. I picked out some interesting materials on learning organisations, personal development, performance management, benchmarking, cross-cultural communications, and women managers. Virtually all the materials comprise at least one video together with supporting notes. Some are also accompanied by a CD. Surprisingly, I could find no direct website reference for these materials. You can request the brochure by email and you could also try searching through

BT and Futuremedia were demonstrating Solstra - "the first complete net-based learning and knowledge management system". There was some impressive technology at work here. The programme is designed to run over an intranet (although it can be internet- based). It would make an excellent component for an organisation's own learning resource centre. The programme holds data on all staff, their current development programme, the range of learning resources and courses available, and allows management of the whole process. Aspects of the programme can accommodate learning needs analysis as well as accreditation. Solstra supports computer-based learning and encourages virtual communication between tutor and learner. All-in-all a pretty useful product for the larger organisation. More details at

By comparison, Target Four are a much smaller company specialising in market research. They have produced an interesting web-based product called ViewFinder which you can use to conduct all kinds of surveys with clients, users and others across the web. Their examples include customer satisfaction surveys, staff appraisal, needs assessment and attitude surveys. I can envisage ViewFinder as a useful feedback and evaluation tool to survey participants some time after a learning event; it would also be an efficient way of gathering data from across an organisation during a period of internal change or re-structuring. All the survey designs, responses, administration, collation, etc are carried out automatically on-line, greatly reducing the time and paperwork involved. Further details at

And if you want an innovative way of looking at staff recruitment using purely web-based technology to find and select people you should have a look at WebRecruiter developed by COM.sortium. Details at or http:/ Mind you, if you're looking for a job, you should have a browse through the excellent on-line job vacancy site maintained by The Guardian at

These were the main highlights for me at the exhibition. I've focused mainly on services which have a web-related connection - but there were few to be seen. Even the IPD (Institute of Personnel and Development) who have invested considerably in developing an extensive, searchable website containing many databases, remain fairly primitive in the basic functioning of their site, despite all the sophisticated graphics. It only really provides a marketing platform for the IPD and offers virtually no interactivity or customisable features which would extend the value of the site beyond the purely IPD-related content. If you want to judge for yourself, go to (although you will need a membership number to access some parts of the site).

Finally, following an appeal in Issue #1 to locate a website for Investors in People, the helpful staff on their stand told me it was lurking at - because someone else had registered the domain name. Again, it's got nice graphics but it's no more than a marketing site really.

Internet musings

Writing in the Observer recently, John Naughton commented

"The trouble with cyberspace is that, as a child famously observed in another context: 'There's no there there.' William Gibson, who coined the term, defined cyberspace as 'a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of experienced operators'. The Economist calls it 'the virtual geography created by computers and networks; the world behind the screen.'"

Ah well, that it explains it. It's not your own face reflected back from your screen as you read these words. It's the virtual editor of this newsletter spying on your desk.

John Naughton goes on to suggest that over a hundred million people now inhabit cyberspace, and that they're multiplying like rabbits. Check out the latest statistics and thoughts on cyberspace at

Training-related News Groups

Newsgroups are an interesting and often unregulated feature of the Internet. Many people love them for their anarchic postings and threads on almost any topic you care to name. Others hate their indiscriminate nature, the proliferation of junk postings, and the scattering of sex-related messages which seem to litter almost every newsgroup.

I thought it might be worth reporting on those public newsgroups which appear to have a training-related theme. Searching the Demon News Server (one of the largest with almost 27,000 newsgroups), I found just four of potential interest. had no activity when I visited; either no-one's been recently or the newsgroup is temporarily suspended. should be an interesting collection of postings if the title is anything to go by. There were around 20 recent messages but no obvious linking theme. had four miscellaneous postings but nothing of any interest. had a considerable number of postings on a whole range of subjects. The newsgroup is meant to be concerned with IT and computer training but I found a much broader range of topics: people looking for trainers; trainers offering work; people wanting advice about delivering training; different views on training evaluation.

There really isn't very much on these public forums which is why various sites offer discussion forums accessed via your browser on a web page. If you know of any good such groups, let me know and I'll include them in a later review. Meanwhile TrainingZONE will shortly offer an open web-based coaching forum in which you will be able to seek and offer help and comment to others.

A surf through Penbo's learning log

Monday: Must get on with my book project. Whenever I ring publisher to renegotiate deadline, the administrator always refers to me as 'Mr Discipline' and asks 'How is Mrs Grievance?'. In view of me not yet actually putting pen to paper [or inkjet!] on my book 'How to handle discipline and grievance matters with ethics - an essential guide to dealing with difficult customers in the voluntary sector' [working title] I don't think this is very amusing. I feel like e-mailing her boss and suggesting instant dismissal.

About Sift

Sift plc is a leading developer of online communities. Based in Bristol, Sift has developed AccountingWEB for professionals in the accountancy profession. At the 1997 Online Information Exhibition at Olympia, Sift were voted European Information Product of the Year (and also runner up as Internet Product of 1997). You can visit this site at

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Editor: Tim Pickles
Sift plc., 33 Corn Street, Bristol BS1 1HT
Tel:+44 (0)117 930 8881 Fax:+44 (0)117 930 8887
Tim Pickles ***** Designing professional toolkits ***** The learning community


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