The launch of in-home networking products is creating an excitement in the IT, telecommunications, consumer electronics, software and building industries that has not been seen since the introduction of the personal computer. There are however many problems preventing the widespread adoption of home networks by members of the general public, both in the United States and Europe. One of these problems is the need to train and up-skill vendors, installers and consumers to cope with the rapidly changing demands of this new and embryonic industry. An effective education strategy is critical to the success of any technology rollout. In response to the challenge, training and certification providers and organizations such as CompTIA, the Industry Home Alliance, DigitalMentors, the Society of Cable Telecommunication Engineers and Hometoys have started to provide educational resources for the industry.
New certification for home networking professionals
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Until recently, the industry did not have a set of credentials that acknowledge peoples expertise in working with digital video, home automation and structured wiring technologies. This has however changed due to the launch of CompTIA’s new Home Technology Integrator + (HTI+) certification program. The HTI+ is basically a credential for technicians servicing the automated home industry. It tests students on a number of different subsystems including: communications networks; entertainment networks; security networks; home control networks; commercial wiring/cabling and computer networks.
Keep on top of evolving technologies
The availability of a new industry certification standard means that companies operating in the home networking space have now begun to up-skill their employees to meet industry recognized competency standards. Traditional instructor-led training courses cannot do this fast or effectively enough, but e-Learning can. With integrated online e-Learning Solutions, home networking companies can:
* Enhance their ability to generate revenue by increasing the productivity of their work force and launching new home networking services and products more quickly and efficiently;
* Reduce costs by decreasing the cost of training delivery, reducing employee turnover, and lowering customer support costs through more knowledgeable customers and employees; and
* Increase competitiveness by having a workforce with the skills required to execute and meet business goals.
e-Learning is an educational platform that spans four separate elements, namely, content, individualization, learning management system (LMS), and learning communities. The core of an e-Learning system is a content repository. Content is normally categorized into e-learning tracks that cover broad areas such as home networking. Each e-learning track comprises of a number of discrete blocks of learning that fulfills a number of training objectives called knowledge objects. These knowledge objects can be used to create customized learning paths suited to particular learners’ needs and they can be reused in different contexts. Knowledge object content can be presented to learners in a range of different formats, including:
* Exploratory questions – These types of questions encourage students to slow down and think more closely about what they are learning.
* Internet papers – This type of element provide learners with supplementary material on a specific topic.
* Mouse overs – Learners use Mouse overs to gain additional directly related to the knowledge in question.
* Animation – Animated graphics are used to further enhance the learning value of the content.
* Exercises – Drag-and drop exercises are used to improve a learners understanding of specific concepts.
* Software simulation – This type of interactive element allows learners to interact and practice complex tasks associated with specific software applications.
* Assessments – At the end of courses assessments that consist of a series of questions that examine the learners understanding of the material in the e-learning object.
* Resource pages – Resource Web pages contain information about optional books and other information that may be necessary or helpful to successfully complete the course.
* Complex e-learning elements – Streaming video based seminars and live software demonstrations and simulations are examples of complex e-learning elements
Individualized access to content is the second strand of an e-Learning platform. Individualization is a process that gives people total control over their learning environments. E-learning content can be delivered and personalized based on a learner’s profile, preferences, or pretest results. The LMS (Learning Management System) manages learner profiles, roles, provides extensive reporting information and is used to define content accessibility. The LMS also controls what navigation and “look and feel” will be delivered based on the learner’s profile or expressed preferences.
The creation of active learning community is the final element of an e-learning system. The availability of community building technologies such as chat rooms, threaded discussion groups and instant messaging services to find tutors or mentors online help to support and expand learning process.
As the number of installations of home technology and automation products grows, homeowners will need someone who can diagnose, troubleshoot, and fix problems with the systems. Certified, trained and experienced in-home engineers and technicians will be in high demand. e-Learning is a rapidly emerging market that will increasingly influence home networking professionals to build on their existing sets of skills.
Gerard O’Driscoll (32) is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of DigitalMentors, a leading provider of e-learning solutions to the global digital television and home networking industries. O’Driscoll graduated from the University of Limerick in 1992. After college O’Driscoll held senior management positions with Seagate, Monaghan Poultry Products, and Irish Productivity Center. O’Driscoll subsequently joined Chorus, an Irish cable company, as a senior technology strategist. O’Driscoll is a published author of two best selling books on topics ranging from digital set-top boxes and interactive TV to home networking technologies. Additionally he has been a featured speaker at a wide range of conferences and events on e-Learning and home networking technologies.