Worldwide Training & Technical Support For DAISY
How can a worldwide Training & Technical Support program be implemented to support the DAISY standard? The key to a successful implementation plan lies with building expertise throughout the Consortium. This paper explores the DAISY "Train the Trainers" courses, regional training centers, technical conferences, and the extensive technical support helpdesk the DAISY Consortium maintains. These activities are all intended to develop experts within every organization in the DAISY Consortium.
WHO NEEDS TRAINING?
Every organization within the DAISY Consortium will require staff members who are trained in the creation of DAISY Digital Talking Books (DTB). In order to facilitate this huge undertaking a fully trained group of experts must be cultivated. Thus, the goal of the DAISY training program is to develop experts in the production and distribution of DAISY Digital Talking Books within all organizations in the DAISY Consortium. It is envisioned that these experts will then train the staff within their own organizations. Currently, there are few people who can be classified as "experts". Those few individuals who have devoted much of their time to help develop the standards and evaluate, test and advance the production software are qualified to be called experts. One of the initial tasks of this training program is to identify within each organization one or more people who have the potential to become experts. Another fundamental task is to determine how best to build and communicate the body of knowledge contained in the DAISY Consortium.
In order to be an expert in the DAISY system, one must have knowledge of the DAISY specifications, the Structure Guidelines, XML, LpStudio/Pro (the authoring and recording software), and knowledge of the capabilities of the playback systems. Once a trainer understands these components and their interrelations, he or she can be classified as an expert. This is not a trivial endeavor, and to be successful the support mechanisms will need to be extensive.
STRATEGY FOR WORLDWIDE TRAINING AND SUPPORT
Developing expertise in every organization is the focus of the strategy for implementing a worldwide training and technical support program. Communication between existing experts and those on the road to becoming experts is key. For this reason, each organization has been encouraged to assign their key technical personnel to become participants of the "Training & Technical Support Work Team" (T&TS). It is this work team lead by Edmar Schut, SVB Netherlands, and Lynn Leith, CNIB Canada, that is charged with developing the strategy, goals, and implementation plans for the DAISY Consortiumís training program. The training program is based on worldwide communication mechanisms, as outlined in the following paragraphs.
EXPERTS TRAINING & TECHNICAL SUPPORT DISCUSSION LIST
Experts and potential experts must be able to communicate easily and freely at any hour of the day or night, as there are participants literally around the world. The T&TS email discussion list provides this mechanism. Every member organization has one or more of its key people assigned to this team and registered on this list. It is here that proposals evolve, questions are answered, and problems posted to the most knowledgeable people in the world in the production of DAISY DTBs. It was here that volunteers came forward to participate in the testing of the LpStudio/Pro software. Others volunteered to help in the development of the "Basic Training Course" used in the Train the Trainers program at regional centers. It will be here that difficult questions will be posted and through discussion, resolved. No person should feel alone, regardless of how far he or she may be from other producing sites with so many experts a simple email away.
REGIONAL TRAINING CENTERS
At the heart of Training and Technical Support is the concept of a Regional Training Center. Any DAISY Consortium member can establish itself as a regional training center. This is voluntary and the amount of service provided is dependant upon the regional training center's committed resources. It is expected that these centers will provide support to trainers in their geographical or language region.
The regional training centers must have at least one expert trainer who can conduct training courses offered at that center. The Basic Training Course must be available from all training centers. Some centers may also conduct the Advanced Training Course. Some centers may have their expert trainer(s) travel to other organizations and conduct training courses on location.
The Regional Training Centers will be the first line of technical support for those who have been trained at the centers. Those who have attended a training course would look to their Regional Training Center to answer their questions and provide guidance. This creates a first line of technical support. Where possible the center at which someone had been trained would be in a time zone that would allow telephone contact between the caller and the center. In addition, the barriers of language can more easily be overcome on a regional level.
ANNUAL TECHNICAL CONFERENCE
In Peterborough in 1999, RNIB hosted a Technology Conference that provided a mechanism for the Consortium's technical personnel to learn about the latest relevant technologies related to DAISY developments. The Consortium wants to continue and expand on the concept of an Annual Expert Technical Conference devoted to the issues surrounding DTB production and distribution.
The Annual Expert Technical Conferences will provide a platform to build expertise within the Consortium. We intend to design a program that will stimulate the experts and answer questions raised throughout the year. This will be primarily an educational and training event. We will ask experts to host seminars and sessions. Expertise from outside the Consortium will enhance and contribute to the overall quality of the program and level of internal expertise.
While our regional experts represent the primary mechanism for direct training and technical support, around-the-clock help is always available through the Help Desk. The help desk provides a comprehensive system for beginners and advanced producers alike. A FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) and Knowledge Base provide information and direction and serve as "the first place to go when a problem arises."
The experts are themselves the second level of technical support. The experts contribute to Help Desk knowledge and expertise. They will use the Help Desk and contribute to the ongoing development. When a question is asked by the experts, the other experts will work together to resolve the issue. If necessary, a problem will be escalated to a formal bug report and lodged with the software developers, or the authors of the standards.
Main functions of the DAISY Training and Technical Support web site (outline)
1. Bug Reporting System (BRS)
1.1. Submit bugs (moderated)
2. Help desk
2.1. Knowledge Base
2.3. Known problems
2.4. Requests for help
3. Training issues
3.1. Tips & Hints
3.2. Practical examples from the Structuring Guidelines
3.3. Overview of Training courses/ Locations
4. Producers corner
4.1.1. HTML/XML related tools
4.1.2. LpStudio/Pro and Plus versions
4.1.3. Analog to Digital conversion related tools and issues
4.1.4. Remote controls / external devices
4.2. Reproduction / copying of CD-ROM
4.2.1. Digital to Analog and related tools and issues
4.2.2. Cd-R/RW issues
4.3.1. Available playback systems
4.3.2. Tips and Hints related to specific functionality of players
4.4. Interesting links
5. Administration (restricted)
5.1. Training course maintenance
5.2. BRS, Knowledge Base (KB), Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) maintenance
5.3. Qualified trainers/trainee registration
5.4. Global content maintenance
6. Download area
Providing a worldwide Training & Technical Support program is a huge challenge, particularly in light of the fact that almost all of the support offered is done on a voluntary basis. However, it is a challenge that the DAISY Consortium is addressing head-on. The best way to understand the approach we are taking and to benefit from all that this program has to offer is to become a part of the team! If your organization is already a member of the DAISY Consortium, make sure you have a qualified person on the T&TS team. If your organization is not part of the DAISY Consortium, and you are involved with providing information in accessible formats to persons who are blind and print disabled, it is clear that it is time for you to join. To learn more about DAISY, please visit our website at: http://www.daisy.org.