Making the most of interactive training

Legal training has not been subject to the same onslaught from information technology as other aspects of the business.

While computer graphics are occasionally brought in to jazz up presentations, the tired trinity of presenter, flip chart and slide projector persists.

Now we have an alternative for legal training in the development of interactive compact disc (CD-i) technology, the prospect of 'presenterless' presentations looms.

Video packages are thought to off-set the disadvantages of traditional presentations by being cheap and allowing flexible viewing. The problem lies in the medium's lack of interactivity – the audience switches to a passive mode after around two minutes.

CD-i has all the convenience of video. It enables training to be fitted around the fee earner's day rather than vice versa; for example, gaps in the day, over lunch, at home and so on. The graphics are at least as engaging as video's.

But more important, the interactivity allows participants more genuine involvement than video training. For example, they can exercise choices in a negotiating scenario, or be tested on questions about a financial package.

CD-i also enables partici-pants to go directly to the areas which interest them the most, or to manipulate the programme to suit their particular needs. These facilities help cut out the "flabbiness" of traditional training.

Upgrading PCs by adding CD-ROM drives and multi-media equipment is another option, as well as or in place of using CD-i.

CD-i players are attractive because they are portable; they can simply be plugged in to a large television in a training room or taken home by fee earners. They do not require a dedicated PC.

There are also an expanding number of CD-i titles available. Philips' arrangement with Video Arts means that a number of classic John Cleese-type videos are appearing in this format. For topics like appraisal, for example, they are a much better option than large, time-consuming, seminars.

Undeniably, there are a few talented presenters of skills courses, but the truth is that many courses do not merit the time or money spent on them. In addition, such courses cannot be kept in a library to be used when convenient at no extra cost.

The legal training market will benefit greatly from properly focused interactive products. Regrettably, there are not yet enough CD-i programmes which concentrate specifically on legal skills.

It is to be hoped that legal training companies will rise to the challenge of making CD-i programmes tailored to the legal market.

Together with the advent of on-line services, such as LawTel or Link, there is now much more scope for convenient and highly-targeted legal training.

David Jabbari is a training consultant at Bird & Bird.