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August Chapter Event: Bringing the Cloud Down to Earth: Applying the Cloud to L&D

Monday, August 27, 2012  
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On Wednesday, August 1, I attended the monthly ATD NYC Chapter meeting entitled "Bringing the Cloud Down to Earth: Applying the Cloud to L&D" at Touro Graduate School of Business.  The speaker was Michelle Lentz, Senior Learning Advisor with Clarity Consulting, who flew in from the West Coast to give us a brief history of cloud computing, talk about the pros and cons, and discuss how it can be used specifically in training.  Michelle has been in Learning and Development for 16 years and before she joined Clarity, she was Director of Training at Trivantis.  She has taught social media seminars across the country and one of her areas of expertise is the use of new technologies in instructional design.

"The Cloud" is short for "cloud computing" which allows individuals and organizations to create and deliver products, solutions and events on-line without the constraints and costs of servers, platforms, bandwidth or an IT department. Applications, programs, and ultimately, your information is stored in servers housed in large data centers around the world. Michelle started out by talking about some of the biggest internet companies which are cloud based and that many of us use on a daily basis, such as Facebook, Google and Yahoo.  She reviewed the benefits of having your content on, or accessing software from, the cloud instead of an internal server or a laptop:

  • Cost:  Development and maintenance costs are spread over all the users that purchase services.  In some cases, you can pay as you go.  Small companies and independent consultants do not have to make significant financial investments in hardware or additional space to house servers and equipment.
  • Ability to collaborate:  Everyone involved in a project can work on a document at the same time
  • Create content for multiple devices:  You do not have to be concerned about what platform the user is accessing the content onundefinedcomputer, laptop, iPad/tablet, iPhone/Droid.
  • Accessibility:  Cloud computing provides the user access to IT specialists, hardware and software which is a particular benefit for consultants and one-person training departments. Also, information is not tied to one machine or dedicated server; therefore, individuals can also access information from anywhere there is an internet connection and at any time.

On the flip side, these are some of the concerns related to the Cloud:

  • Security:  Are servers that are not under a company's control with internal servers and firewalls, be as secure?
  • Privacy:  Given the nature of the business and its customers, will information residing outside the institution be allowed? 
  • Risk:  What happens if you lose access to the virtual server/cloud?  One of the attendees recommended that this should be addressed in the contract; how will the vendor compensate you?
  • Another participant brought up that you cannot customize software like you could with something that is in-house.

Michelle finished up by reviewing some of the Learning Management Systems, such as Litmos, and Content Management Systems, such as Lectora, edit, anan and Rapid Intake.  Given the number of questions throughout the presentation, there was a high level of interest in the material.

Michelle covered a lot and this is what I've been thinking about since the program:

  • To be able to work with several subject matter experts or co-authors on a module or course in real time, especially when you are at different locations, is a real plus.
  • I am often hearing, or reading, about the issue of multiple platforms and how your users have access to more than one depending on their location or learning style.  However there is the issue of creating material for all of them without having to do it more than once.  The Cloud appears to be the solution.
  • The biggest impediment for me is that my hospital does not allow hosted software or data to be hosted outside the institution.  I'm not even allowed to have a vendor share my screen to help when I have a problem and vendors can't have temporary access to install their software.  Does anyone else have this issue or a similar one?
  • Is anyone creating or delivering their training via the cloud?  Does anyone have plans to do so?

Kim Howie has been the Training Manager since 2004 in Patient Accounts at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, has been of member of ATD NYC for 13 years and is currently serving as Secretary for the ATD NYC Board of Directors.

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