“I have a large seashell collection which I keep scattered on the beaches all over the world. Maybe you’ve seen it.” — Steven Wright
The comedian Steven Wright has an odd way of managing his resources. But he has a point. If you love seashells, does it make more sense to carry a few around in your pocket, or to keep millions where you and everyone else can access them freely?
His method shows the advantage of using a common infrastructure to store content that many individuals need access to. This echoes one of the principles of cloud computing (or, “the cloud” for short), a paradigm that is revolutionizing the way corporate training is developed, used and managed.
What is the cloud?
The cloud is a system in which content is stored, maintained and accessed on a remote server rather than your own machine. The web is a perfect example: with internet access, you can use your humble laptop to perform miracles like viewing satellite images of the entire earth or crunching numbers with powerful software in massive databases. When it comes to training, one example would be a learning portal that organizes and maintains your company’s training curriculum.
Why should I use the cloud for training?
Some companies use face-to-face meetings and paper manuals as their primary method of training, and therefore don’t benefit from the power of the cloud. If you don’t use the cloud, here’s what you’re missing out on:
- Access: When training collateral isn’t stored in the cloud, it’s sent from training developer to training manager to employee, with other potential stops along the way. With this system, employees can have trouble getting their hands on the training they need. With a cloud-based system, only a link to the learning portal, a password and a request to complete the training is sent to each employee—no email chains to wade through or manuals to lose. And everyone has access to the same material at the same time.
- Document control: Jobs involving complicated, highly-regulated procedures require workers to stay on top of the latest techniques. When operational documents are updated and sent to employees, it’s easy to confuse them with the previous version. When you maintain the latest documents and up-to-date training courses in the cloud, you can be confident that your employees are staying current.
- Reduced need for hardware and IT: Building a scalable, customized training program takes time and money, much of which is spent maintaining servers and resolving compatibility issues. When all the content is hosted and maintained by an external vendor, training managers can focus on managing their employees’ progress. And when it’s time to scale up the training program, it’s as easy as choosing a new plan.
- Security: “The dog ate my homework” is a classic line that teachers never believe—but it really happened to me once (I promise!). If I had been doing my homework in a cloud-based system like Google Drive, that excuse wouldn’t have been remotely believable. Likewise, “my hard drive crashed” doesn’t have to be a catastrophic issue, since work that’s done in the cloud stays in the cloud.
- Convenience for employees: Training that’s stored in the cloud, or web-based training, is usually designed to run in common browsers like Google Chrome or Internet Explorer. This makes it practically platform independent, so employees can start and stop a course whenever they need to or wherever they go. The ability to break step from the 9-to-5 herd once in a while is invaluable to busy employees.
- Convenience for training managers: When the training curriculum lives in the cloud, managers can access it just as easily as employees. That means they can find out at a glance who completed their assigned training and how they performed.
If you’re looking to make life easier with broader access, simple updates and better security, it might be time to start looking at putting training content in the cloud.