'Start an Online Training Business' by Cherry Rea

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28th Sep 2000
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Start an Online Training Business
Cherry Rea (2000)
Crestia Developments Ltd, 19 Tennyson Street, Carrum 3197 Victoria, Australia
$26.95 e-book available from http://www.webtraining-biz.com/

Start an Online Training Business is designed to enable anyone to start a training business on the web. It’s called an e-book - which simply means that it’s a series of web pages with spiral binding down the left hand side. Actually, it’s a downloadable file which installs itself on your computer, and runs in a sort of slimmed down browser interface of its own complete with internal and external hyperlinks. The full book runs to thirteen chapters covering business issues (writing a business plan, marketing), instructional design (learning activities, testing and assessment) and web related matters (web site design, developing online communities). Only the first four chapters were available for review, but the full contents list gives a good idea of what the rest of the book contains.

Almost all guides to producing open and distance learning materials stress the importance of providing the learner with clear objectives, and an indication of how long he or she should expect to spend on each section. Unfortunately, this book contains neither, and it’s not very clear exactly who it’s aimed at. The first section on selecting business equipment appears to be talking to someone who’s never owned a computer or used a word-processing program before. However, within a few pages there are guidelines on how to handle credit card payments through the web site that the diligent student is apparently now able to design.

The layout and design of the book itself doesn’t inspire an enormous amount of confidence. Font size, colour, emphasis and spacing vary fairly randomly. Indents and borders on the rather long pages don’t seem to follow any particular pattern. URLs sometimes include http://and sometimes they don’t. Some sections have miniature screen dumps of useful web sites and others don’t. The chapters are interspersed with tired bits of cartoon clipart that don’t really have much to do with the issues under discussion. Even the first page presents problems – the pink arrow (to take you onto the next page) is just below the bottom of a 1024 x 768 screen, where naïve users could easily miss it. The first four chapters are also available online, where the layout and readability is actually much better.

Having said that, there are some good points. The theme of the book, that it’s possible for anyone who knows a bit about something useful to use the web to help others learn is to be applauded. Many aspects of basic web site design and online learning aren’t all that complicated, and should be more widely disseminated through simple, friendly introductions. Some of the chapters that are available in the free review area have useful web links to sites about, for example, evaluation, instructional design and business planning

However, the book tries to make e-commerce appear a bit too easy. Setting up a merchant account and taking credit card payments through a web site isn’t for the faint hearted, and also costs a fair amount for a very small company. Good graphic design is important for a web site, especially if people are being asked to divulge their credit card details in return for the promise of an online training programme. It’s nice to think that anyone can do it – but those who want to go about it seriously with a real prospect of earning some money would be better advised to spend their 27 dollars on a real book.

David Evans
E-Learning Consultant
Financial Projections Ltd
www.financialprojections.com

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