Class on Demand

GCN LAB REVIEWS

The easy, inexpensive way to teach complex software

Class on Demand offers users professional-level software training at a reasonable price

Many of the technologies we review in our product lab are complex software programs or devices that defy a quick look or test drive. You just can’t jump into a product like the Xerox DocuShare or Citrix NetScaler without some type of formal training.

However, in this age of decreasing budgets, the prospect of sending a coterie of workers to the Hilton for a week of classes probably won’t fly. But without that training, you can’t really use the new software. So how do you break out of the Catch 22? One answer might be training software.  

One of the biggest names in computer training software is Class on Demand. We’ve looked at a few of the company's products in the past, but we wanted to see how it might tackle training on a very challenging piece of software. So we got its newest product, Getting Started With Adobe Creative Suite 5 Production Premium, which is designed for training would-be graphics pros on Adobe’s latest software for video production and editing. The suite is more than just a new graphics program; it’s actually 11 separate programs, each with enough features to make your head spin.

With Class on Demand, you buy either a DVD with the training software or access to the software online via streaming media. For our testing, we used the DVD. The price for the DVD or streaming media access is $150.


Class on Demand
Pros: Very easy to use; good information.
Cons: Not interactive; no chance to test proficiency.
Performance: A
Ease of Use: A+
Features: B-
Value: B
Price: $149

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In terms of ease of use, nothing could be simpler. You just drop the DVD into your drive, and it starts playing. The Class on Demand DVD is divided into lessons, each of which is an individual segment that you select from the title menu. Each of the Class on Demand programs we have seen features an expert, and this one is no different. Tim Kolb, the host, is animated, informative and really knows what he’s doing.

The logic of the training flows from the simplest aspects of the program all the way to the most complex, assuming you watch the training in order. You don’t need to do that. If you’re familiar with part of the program, you can skip to areas you need help with. But if you are starting from zero, it will walk you through a sample project in all its stages. Users begin with the Bridge portion of the suite, which is how you navigate and merge files in Adobe Creative Suite. In fact, I learned a lot here because I thought that Bridge was a simple navigation program and was using it as such, but in fact, it’s a powerful tool that I wasn’t using to its fullest.

The most complex aspect of the program is probably Flash Catalyst. Given that it can take the place of hundreds of lines of hand coding, this is not unexpected. With it, you can create entire Flash presentations that include interactive movies and sound. It’s probably the most useful of all the tools in the suite.

Although I learned a lot about Adobe Creative Suite 5, the subject matter got me thinking about the limitations of training software. With them, you are basically watching movies. They can be quite good, but many people don’t learn as well just by watching, myself included. Show me how to change a tire 10 times, and I might not completely know how to do it when one blows out on the highway. But after I do it myself, I learn the process forever. It would be nice if Class on Demand used the Flash technology it is teaching us to set up an interactive training program.

It also might be more effective if the chapters were broken up into shorter segments with quizzes to help retention. Even a check list of  what you should have learned might be productive. There aren’t too many people who can watch a 45-minute technical training video and then retain all that information for later use. I know people who can, but unfortunately, I’m not one of them. I had to resort to taking good notes and a lot of pausing.

The best thing about Class on Demand is that it’s very easy to use and relatively inexpensive. And it’s full of good information. Although it could be improved with some interactivity, being able to offer a DVD to a user with instructions to simply pop it in your machine can’t be overrated. If you’ve recently brought a complicated program such as Adobe Creative Suite 5 into your agency, do yourself a favor and see if Class on Demand has a training DVD to make the transition easier — and far less expensive in both dollars and effort.

Class on Demand, www.classondemand.net

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