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Just convert this CBT into multimedia!!
State Energy Commission of Western Australia
"What do you mean 'our hardware has failed and we can't use our Computer Based Training programs'? Just convert our CBT into Multimedia." Thus started an informative, sometimes frustrating but very interesting eight months.
In the early 80s the State Energy Commission of Western Australia (SECWA), decided to train its Power Station staff using a radical new system called Computer Based Training. Original programs were first developed for small numbers of operations staff. Then a major contract was let to develop a program on "Basic Power Station Plant" and one on the "Permit to Work" system. These programs were designed for a much larger target audience of maintenance and operations personnel.
State of the art equipment had been purchased. This included Cremenco computers with 128kB RAM, 20 MB hard disk, graphic card, speech synthesiser and colour Barco screens.
The project took over five years and during that time the hardware was changed to IBM XTs. Towards the end of the project the XTs were fitted with 386 accelerator cards.
The "Permit to Work" module has been extensively used and the "Basic Power Station Plant" had been trialed and was ready for full implementation when it became apparent that the computer hardware, which was over eight years old, was unreliable and unrepairable.
The problem that we faced was one of compatibility. The courseware that we had invested so much time and money into would not run on new IBM PS/2 computers and the old XTs and Barco screens were no longer reliable. We had locked ourselves into a Hardware and Software solution that linked the life of our courseware to the life of our machines.
Management's response of "just convert our CBT into multimedia" was not as simple as it sounded but it did give us the opportunity to update technical content, enhance instructional design and focus on competency based outcomes.
The decision was made to go to 'open tender' for what amounted to a total revamp of our existing program.
A team of five people was set up to assess the 15 tender submissions.
Initial short listing of all tenders below our budget ceiling offering a non-proprietary authoring system left us with four companies.
Short listing criteria
Further short listing criteria consisted of:
This process reduced the candidates down to three companies.
- Quality of past deliverables
- Effective use of wide range of multimedia
- Constitution of project team
- Experience/expertise in instructional design
- Local support
- Non-restrictive copyright/licensing
The selection process
The final selection was made after checking references and visiting the short listed tenderers for a presentation and tour of their facilities.
Reference checking proved to be very valuable. Visits were made to referees' premises to view tenderers' previous work and to ask questions. Questions asked included:
- Value for money?
- Product up to expectations?
- Learning objectives met?
- Design documentation supplied?
- Level of support?
- Errors corrected without argument or delay?
Presentation by tenderer
Each of the short listed tenderers was requested to give a presentation answering the following questions:
- Provide an overview of your company and its operating philosophy.
- Give a sample multimedia demonstration on your recommended platform, indicative of the type, style and quality of the intended product.
- Explain why you have chosen this hardware platform. Show us something on the alternative platform.
- What resources do you expect SECWA to provide?
- Demonstrate or explain the proposed computer managed learning system.
- Outline the probable learning strategy you would use.
- Why should we select your company in preference to other tenderers?
The next step was to evaluate the tenderers in light of the gathered data. The 14 criteria considered important were then weighted. The most important criterion with a weighting of 30 was:
Next in order for importance to us, with a weighting of 25, was:
- Educational quality in terms of producing required student outcomes.
Then with a weighting of 20:
- Past deliverables (what have they done and is it good?) and reports from past clients.
- Quality of Multimedia.
Finally at 15 came:
- Project Team.
- Project management.
- Working relationship.
- Student Management System
- Company profile
- Documentation deliverables
- SECWA's ability to modify
- Ease of access to project team
- Development and QA methodology
The final selection
After detailed analysis, the Perth based company Interactive Logic was selected as the successful tenderer. The core development tool was Authorware Professional and the platform selected was Macintosh Centris 650 with CD-ROM.
One of the major strengths of Interactive Logic is their expertise in Human Resource Development and course design. Another is their willingness, or rather insistence, of working very closely with the client during the development.
A large thermal Power Station is a complex plant. To teach the concepts and process of generating electricity requires the student to end up with an understanding of physics, thermodynamics and electro-technology. The challenge was to develop a multimedia program that would achieve this without being boring. Our original CBT was not much more than an electronic book with multiple choice questions and we wanted something better than that.
The gaming scenario
The company Interactive Logic has a very creative and innovative approach to multimedia. They came up with an overarching gaming scenario as the pre and post test for each module. The information required to successfully complete the elaborate gaming simulation is contained in each of the modules.
The most difficult part of the project was putting together a framework of objectives based on required performance outcomes. The challenge was to come up with valid performance indicators for cognitive objectives and not just cop out by saying "have a knowledge of.." or "have an appreciation of ..." After going through this process, it is easy to see why so few people get it right. Although it was frustrating at times, it was to the credit of Interactive Logic that they insisted on maintaining the educational integrity of the program no matter how difficult that was. This was done by establishing a structured framework for each lesson.
With the framework in place the content could be determined. Two Trainers from SECWA spent one day a week with the project team from Interactive Logic working on the content. The modules of the Power Station Plant course included:
As well as the Power Station Plant course, there are also two "Permit to Work" modules.
- Basic Cycle
- Fuels: handling and firing
- Feedwater system
- Cooling water system
As the content of each module was completed, the storyboarding began. The storyboards were reviewed by SECWA and when approved the authoring commenced.
Graphics, animation and audio
The most obvious change was the visuals. From the crude graphics and animation with the difficult to understand voice of the old CBT, to the sophisticated flyovers, intricate graphics and professional voice over of the new Multimedia presentation.
The program was designed for SECWA's power stations but is generic enough to apply to any thermal power plant. Utilities wishing to purchase this package from SECWA can do so at a fraction of the development cost.
Although the project is not yet complete, the results thus far are very impressive and promises to be an excellent investment.
The advancement in technology has meant that Multimedia can now provide results that were not envisaged a few years ago. This means that when considering converting old CBT programs, it may be worthwhile doing a complete rewrite rather than being tied down to the limitations of past technology.
When selecting a Multimedia developer, take your time and choose carefully to ensure you get the results you desire.
The thing to remember is that Multimedia is a tool; a means to an end, not an end in itself. Focus on learning outcomes. Multimedia is not a training tool, its a performance tool - if Multimedia will not improve performance; spend your money on something that will!
|Author: David Aiton|
Training and Development Officer
State Energy Commission of Western Australia, Kwinana.
Please cite as: Aiton, D. (1994). Just convert this CBT into multimedia!! In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Second International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 1-3. Perth, Western Australia, 23-28 January. Promaco Conventions.
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