Training Development and Delivery in the Digital Age

Traditionally, face to face, instructor led training has been how we have been taught in schools and at work. So far it has been the most effective method of cramming a brain with new instructions. Instructors have always had a preference of being able to look a student in the eye in order to gauge the level of understanding and comprehension as they deliver the course material. However, now, more than ever, multi-media is playing an ever increasing role in both the content and the delivery. Instructors have to tackle problems ranging from setting up complicated multi-media projectors displaying content that was created by a 3rd party and stored on servers located in another country. The dependency on the Internet to provide this content is driving the development of the content and delivery methods. We have to be aware of live streaming or recorded streaming issues and how to download the content for viewing offline (just in case the Internet connection is lost).
Now the next trend has emerged and that is the virtual training scenario. Instructors are faced with delivering training via webcams to an invisible audience. To make matters worse, instructors have keep the students engaged and are willing and engaging participants in the training. In some cases, the students are eager and ask questions, and in others, the instructor feels like they are just talking to a webcam with nobody listening or paying attention.
Now we can add another element of uncertainly to the equation; the Internet and bandwidth issues. Factors such as geographic location, time zones, Internet availability, computer capability, the list goes on. There are now many factors that must be considered when not only delivering the content but building the courseware. Will everyone that takes your training have English as a first language? Do they have the latest version of the browser that supports the multimedia plug-in? Or will you use 3rd party technology like Skype to broadcast the training and interact with the students. How will you measure the level of participation of your students? There are many questions and a variety of answers to these questions. One that I am constantly dealing with is time zones. Are your students just waking up or are they just about ready to climb into bed? Or is it the middle of the night for you and how do you stay awake?
The last point that I want to bring up is the content itself. As we develop new training solutions, one thing is common. The overall size of the training content increases as demand for content grows. What I mean to say is that what we used to be able to delivery as a traditional courseware book converted to slides is now a fancy multi-media presentation with hands-on interactive training. Added up, with hand-on training, the content could fill a DVD. Try delivering this across the Internet to a broad audience in a virtual environment and suddenly you are faced with a variety of points of failure. Now look at the common student that is attending the training and suddenly multiple points of failure appear.
In the traditional classroom, you could take attendance and quickly determine how many students you have in attendance. In a virtual world, you never know who has stepped away from their computer or even lost connectivity and is frantically trying to get reconnected.
Finally, when developing the training, you have to keep in mind your target audience. How will they access the training? Will they need to view it on a traditional computer or can they use a cell phone to stream the content in small chunks.
All of these questions I pose to you as I think about how to develop solid training content to an international audience who all face different challenges in just accessing the content.