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Case Study: Turning Training Into Profit

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At Parts Now!, online multimedia is turning training into a new forum for boosting revenue. The 17-year-old distributor of computer printer parts has developed a strategy for using rich media to extend the reach of complex training sessions that are sold to companies and individuals seeking corporate accreditation in the repair of broken computer printers.

Parts Now!, the world’s largest reseller of parts for printers made by Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark, and Canon, has offered pay versions of in-person training courses to technicians for more than a decade. Now using rich media publishing tools developed by Sonic Foundry, including the Mediasite RL Series Recorder, Parts Now! is able to sell its training content to a larger audience of technicians than ever before.

"The availability of the online courses is not cannibalizing demand for Parts Now!’s traditional sessions," says Parts Now! director of training Steve Geishirt. "Instead, it is expanding awareness of the company’s training courses and drawing a wider circle of students for the sessions."

Parts Now! views its training courses as a way to generate incremental revenue from companies paying fees to attend courses while expanding the knowledge base of its service technicians in the field. The idea is that repair professionals who have more skills will complete more repair tasks successfully, generating fewer returns of parts sold by the company, Geishirt says.

The Problem
The process of teaching professional technicians about the intricacies of repairing business computer printers is more arduous than many would realize. Training an individual to detect and repair problems that are typically found in a single printer model can take up to a day. Multiply those training requirements by the evolving set of computer printer models on today’s market and one faces a substantial challenge in keeping repair technicians fully trained to handle the variety of issues they are likely to face when dealing with broken printers in the field.

In an effort to expand its partnership with the service companies that purchase the replacement parts it distributes, Parts Now! offers a series of daylong classes throughout the year that educate technicians on the way specific printer models work and the techniques needed to address common repair issues.

Typically, the company holds its training sessions at its Wisconsin headquarters. Over the course of a year, Parts Now! draws hundreds of students, some coming from as far away as Argentina, to its in-person sessions.

"We have always been leery of recording these sessions and distributing them on videotape or DVD because of the fear that the pre-recorded training sessions would be copied and distributed widely within the service industry," Geishirt said. "That type of piracy would significantly cut into our profits, resulting in an increase for those who pay to attend the basic development training courses."

The Solution
Parts Now! purchased Sonic Foundry’s Mediasite RL in 2005 to simplify the process of creating online events that blend video with computer-style applications, such as PowerPoint slides and online quizzes, into a single on-screen presentation.

The company creates classes specifically for those experiencing the session online. Rather than simply recording and re-packaging a live classroom session, the company develops custom content for viewing over the web. "We showcase multiple pictures and diagrams of printer parts being discussed by the instructor during the training session," says Geishirt. "These images are prepared and posted via PowerPoint slides during the presentation. Likewise, on-screen presenters attempt to recreate the in-class, hands-on experiences by encouraging online viewers to take apart and reassemble the printers being discussed in the training sessions. With Mediasite, online students have access to the printer being discussed in the training session, and they are encouraged to pause and restart the presentation if they fall behind the presenter’s instructions while working with the printers."

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