Buyer be inquisitive

1. What is the audio`s tonal sound quality? Audio portions should have been created in a professional sound studio using voice processors to ensure that the sound track is clear and can be heard throughout a large seminar room. This is not necessary when the videos are made in the field to depict real-world environments.

Michael S. Walker, Fiber Optic Training Association

Before purchasing an audio or video training aid, you should ask the following questions:

1. What is the audio`s tonal sound quality? Audio portions should have been created in a professional sound studio using voice processors to ensure that the sound track is clear and can be heard throughout a large seminar room. This is not necessary when the videos are made in the field to depict real-world environments.

2. To what degree is the image clear and detailed? The video should have been produced in a professional studio, with adequate and proper lighting. A rule of thumb is that if the viewer can see the fingernails of the technician in the video, the viewer will also be able to see a bare 250-micron fiber being placed in a cleave tool, connector, or fusion splicer. Many videos are otherwise excellent in content, but are useless as instructional demonstrations because the viewer cannot clearly see a grommet, cleave length, or total bare fiber length. Again, videos shot in the field to depict real-world environments provide other benefits.

3. Who created the course of study, and is it field- or lab-based? Training aids are created by engineers, education professionals, and fiber-optic and telecommunications installers. The degree to which a training aid will assist you depends on the perspective from which it was created. Determine what your training goals are before purchasing any products.

4. Was the tape produced by a product manufacturer? Some of the larger product vendors create the best-quality tapes but use them only to sell their product lines. These tapes are usually free or available at low cost. Understand that they are usually sales tools and that overall industry-training quality is limited, but these tapes are a good choice for general information about the vendor and its products.

5. Is the format hands-on, general lecture, or both? Ask how many minutes are devoted to hands-on activities--the more the better. If you are using tapes to introduce your company`s sales, estimating, and engineering departments to a new technology, then hands-on footage will be more beneficial than a lecture. It will allow them to see the time and labor a specific product generates, and what is involved in installing it.

6. What specific details are covered? The provider should be able to list all the tape`s contents for your review and may put you in contact with its creator. If you still have questions regarding the installation of a specific product, you may have the option of contracting with a company to create a custom tape that directly addresses your particular concerns.

7. Are you purchasing an original or updated version? If you are purchasing an updated version, ascertain that it is not simply a repackaged version of the original information. It should provide insight on current topics. Due to the nature of rapidly emerging technologies such as fiber optics, you will want to ensure that what you purchase is up-to-date in terms of technology and standards. Theory and other basic background information do not change as rapidly and need not be updated frequently.

8. Will future updates be made available to you? If the company upgrades or modifies the tape, will you be notified and given the opportunity to purchase the new version at a reduced cost?

9. Do any educational institutions use the tape? If so, get in touch with the appropriate individual and ask for an honest assessment of the tape or other tapes that the individual suggests or currently uses in training programs.

10. What about cost and copyright issues? You may be eligible for a discount if you purchase a complete set. Ask if you can show the tape to as many people as you wish. Also find out if you can copy the tape to give to your customers. Typically the answer will be no, but if you ask, you might be offered a discount if you purchase multiple copies, or the opportunity to enter into a joint-sales agreement.

Michael S. Walker is the founder of the Fiber Optic Training Association and Communication Consultants (Boston), a fiber-optic installation company. He is a board member of the Fiber Optic Association (Boston) and has been installing fiber-optic systems since 1982.

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