Training Resurrections: Disc-Based Training Revived
The one-page announcement is easy to
miss: "iDVD: One Giant Step for Mankind."
Unlike its more recently announced namesake,
the much-ballyhooed authoring axis of Apple's new on-board DVD
strategy, this iDVD is buried among the 81 pages of KeyStone
Learning Systems' course catalog, which lists 1,200 self-paced
courses for IT training. All the courses (except this iDVD one)
are distributed on either CD-ROM or VHS tape.
Even buried in the catacombs of the
KeyStone catalog, this announcement beckons like a beacon hawking
true-tread tires to the winter evening sky. In a world where
courseware vendors have rushed to the Web like lemmings to the
sea, KeyStone Learning Systems has dared to be different, dared
to embrace a disc-based technology (DVD) as a platform for training.
Just think, most of us had given up hoping for this sort of
thing years ago...
But Jean-Pierre Isbouts doesn't think
his company is doing anything risky or audacious, and he can't
figure out why he has no competitors. Isbouts is chief technology
officer for Global Learning Systems, the larger company of which
KeyStone is a subsidiary. Isbouts says that DVD technology came
of age (and of market penetration) at least a year ago. DVD
hardware is standard, available, and inexpensive, and it has
the capacity/ bandwidth to deliver quality multimedia and video.
This makes it the perfect medium for interactive training.
It's All in the Delivery
KeyStone's iDVD began life about a year
ago, the brainchild of industry veterans Jean-Pierre Isbouts
and Bernie Luskin, Global Learning Systems' vice chairman. Do
the names sound familiar? Both men are former Philips employees
with roots reaching back 20 years to the days of interactive
videodisc, and both are popularly considered multimedia pioneers.
Isbouts says that about a year ago he
and Luskin took a good look at the state-of-the-art of Web-centric
e-learning. "We felt that e-learning was a major step back,"
says Isbouts. "Sure it provides tracking and scoring, which
is great, but as far as multimedia goes, Web-based training
takes us back to the 1980s, to the early days of CD-ROM. Bernie
and I felt interactive training should be moving forward, not
While KeyStone/Global does not intend
to follow the courseware vendor crowd to Web dependency, neither
does it intend to ignore the Web. The Web provides too many
good things-tracking, assessments, reporting, scheduling, and
updating. Global sees iDVD as the perfect compromise between
disc-based and Web-based training. It is a best-of-both-worlds
training solution that can deliver more than either medium can
do independent of the other, according to Isbouts. "iDVD
marries e-learning to a high-capacity carrier (a DVD disc) without
the constraints of bandwidth you experience on the Web,"
Isbouts believes the iDVD courseware
products will appeal to Fortune 500 companies who want to move
their courseware to the Web but are frustrated by the bandwidth
limitations of the Internet. He also recognizes that these limitations
are not likely to change anytime soon. Neither does he see streaming
video over the Internet as a currently feasible multimedia training
solution. Not only does streaming video face bandwidth issues,
but it also suffers from lack of standards. DVD, Isbouts points
out, is "an established international standard that is
guaranteed to be stable and universally supported for a very
iDVD is actually a joint venture between
Global and its KeyStone subsidiary and Panasonic Disc Services
Corporation (PDSC) of Torrance, California. Isbouts calls Panasonic
DSC "the premiere DVD advanced technology center in the
U.S." He says that, "While most Japanese electronics
manufacturers like to keep their R&D facilities close to
home-i.e., in Japan-Panasonic's primary DVD engineering facility
is right here in California."
PDSC will provide Web-connection technology
that will (among other things) give iDVD the ability to serialize
individual DVD replicas. This is based on Panasonic's BCA serialized
replication technology, which is on its way to becoming an important
industry standard, according to Isbouts.
Under the joint agreement, PDSC will
also provide disc-pressing services, while Global will provide
marketing and production. KeyStone will provide content from
its 1,200-course catalog. Global also has its own multimedia
and DVD production studio in Los Angeles, called Pantheon Productions.
This facility will be jointly held by Global and PCSC, and serve
as a full-service development and post-production center for
Integral to the iDVD's Web-connected
power is Web access to a Learning Management System (LMS). Users
of iDVD will be able to take advantage of Global's LearningVista
LMS, or they can opt to use any other LMS on the market, says
Isbouts. Global will also offer learning management services
over the Internet using a "hosted ASP" model, according
to Isbouts. He also notes that Global is working hard to make
iDVD courses compliant with emerging LMS standards for courseware
portability. "And we will be sure to stay in step as these
LMS standards evolve," he asserts.
Today's KeyStone Learning Systems catalog
offers only one iDVD course-"Beginning Windows 2000,"
which sells for $69. The company says that an iDVD version of
its Office 2000 course will also be available shortly. After
that, the company will sort through its 1,200 courses to select
prime projects for repurposing.
But Isbouts says Global Learning Systems
does not intend to limit itself to in-house content. In fact,
the company will offer iDVD technology to anyone who is interested,
even competing courseware vendors. "This is not just KeyStone
technology," he says. "We will license this technology
to corporate clients so they can try it themselves within their
own training networks." The company is already talking
with other publishers and content providers who are considering
using iDVD as a training platform. Isbouts makes it clear that
he wants iDVD to be more than a one-hit wonder from one company.
Like an evangelist, he wants this Global technology to become
Today, iDVD is aimed primarily at computer
users with pre-installed DVD-ROM drives and modems for Internet
connection. Isbouts concedes that most of the widely installed
DVD-Video players are less than ideal for iDVD since they have
no built-in modems for Internet connection. But he says that
the industry insiders at Panasonic tell him that this situation
will soon change. Many manufacturers are talking about building
Web connectivity into their next-generation movie players. He
also notes that iDVD discs are playable in Sony's popular PlayStation
2 game machines, and predicts that iDVD discs will also work
in many future DVD-capable interactive TV set-top boxes.
Isbouts sees iDVD as a darling of convergence
that will feed off of DVD-Video's market popularity while taking
advantage of the manufacturers' economies of scale. "It
isn't often that consumer electronics and corporate training
come together like this-iDVD is one of those rare occasions."