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Tap into new generation of low-cost online training tools

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in Hiring,HR Management,Human Resources,Meeting Management,Office Management,Office Technology,PowerPoint Tricks

Issue: Many HR departments can't afford e-training and education programs.

Benefit: Using basic, inexpensive do-it-yourself training tools, you can cut costs and earn praise for your big-picture thinking.

Action: Use the online tools and tips cited below.

While the cost of e-learning programs is steadily declining, many still remain too expensive for small and medium-size organizations with limited HR budgets. But you don't need a lot of money to create e-learning programs and impress senior executives with your ability to stretch HR dollars.

Advice: Turn to free and low-cost training tools available online. Don't try to create complex training programs in-house. That would chew up too much of your time and could hurt training quality.

Instead, do-it-yourself e-learning is best for purposes such as educating support staff about new products, orientating new hires and informing staff about benefits or other issues that require regular updates.

Such topics make up the subject matter for what's known as "rapid e-learning tools." Definition: Web-based programs that can be created in a few weeks and are often based on in-house documents and PowerPoint presentations. For most organizations, rapid e-learning programs can address 30 percent to 50 percent of their training needs.

Top tools: Various free and low-cost online resources let you create e-learning tools with PowerPoint, a computer, CD burner, microphone and video camera.

"People who do stand-up presentations with PowerPoint can use (these tools) to create a reasonable facsimile of multimedia learning," says Jane Bozarth, author of the book E-learning on a Shoestring. Her suggestions:

Collect thousands of PowerPoint templates and 3D graphics along with Power-Point instructions at www.presentationpro. com. Find more PowerPoint tips and training materials at www.presentersuniversity. com and www.powerpointbackgrounds. com/powerpointtips.htm. Find free training games at www.thiagi.com/games.html.

At www.presentationpro.com, you can download software to give PowerPoint training programs interactive features, plus transfer PowerPoint programs to a CD-ROM, Web site or DVD. Prices range from $399 to $1,196. Another tool that does that is Visual Communicator software (for $489) at www.seriousmagic.com/vcbustraining.cfm.

Use Microsoft Producer software to combine PowerPoint slides, pictures, audio and video. Go to www.office.microsoft. com/downloads. Cost: nothing.

Record and edit PowerPoint in streaming video for presentation on a Web site or CD-ROM with Camtasia Studio software at www.learningcircuits.org/tryit.htm. Download a free 30-day trial.

Final note: If you lack the time to create e-training tools, consider hiring tech students at local colleges and technical schools.

For more on e-learning tools, plus an e-learning discussion board, go to www.astd.org/astd/resources and click on "E-Learning" in the Learning Communi-ties section. Another resource: www.e-learningguru.com.

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