Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 10, NO. 8 / AUGUST 1984 / PAGE S4

Computer based training for non-computer subjects.

It is only natural to use the computer to teach people how to use computers. More creative use of the computer includes teaching other skills. I tested programs that teach engineers to analyze structural stress and strain, salesmen to sell, managers to write memos, musicians to compose, and pilots to use navigational instruments.

The Sales Edge is not advertised as a training program, but as a practical tool for salespeople. 2 am not convinced that it is a practical tool, but I do think it is a marvelous training device. You begin using The Sales Edge by answering a series of self-assessment questions. Then you create a customer file by answering questions about your customer. Then you have the program prepare a report that covers the following:

        What to expect from your customer.
        How to succeed with your customer.
        Preparation strategy.
        Opening strategy.
        Presentation strategy.
        Closing strategy.

Each of these sections is custom prepared to help a specific salesperson interact with a specific customer.

Since these are brief reviews, there is not space to give a full evaluation of The Sales Edge. However, this program will clearly teach a salesperson to be more analytical and more observant of customer needs and desires, and will teach him how to select and use appropriate strategies.

For example, I want my own sales staff to be effective closers. There are many different closing strategies, and most salespeople know only a few. The Sales Edge not only introduces new methods of closing, it even selects appropriate customers with whom to try the new strategy.

Earlier, I said that I did not think this was a practical tool for selling. This is because you must know a great deal about your customer, and the computer takes about half an hour to prepare a report. This may be reasonable for big ticket sales, but I think it unlikely that anyone will consistently go to that much trouble. However, even occasional use of The Sales Edge will train a person to sell more effectively.

Thoughtware is a series of computer courses in organizational development. I have seen much of this material before in other forms. I worked for a psychological testing firm as an undergraduate and for a management training firm as a graduate student, and covered some of the material in an MBA program and as a doctoral student in administration. Much of my training used tests and presentations similar to Thoughtware as a foundation for discussion. Since (1) Thoughtware does not offrer as much explanatory material as I had in other courses, and (2) Thoughtware omits the human interaction of the discussion sessions, I ended up with the feeling that Thoughtware focused on the gimmicks of the methodology rather than the substance. I tried two of the packages in the Thoughtware series; their Assessing Personal Management Skills Diagnostic and their unit on Leading Effectively. The diagnostic package includes an assessment of leadership style obviously based on the Management Grid, and assessments of leadership strategy, understanding of motivaion factors and work group effectiveness, feed back strategy, goal setting, and delegation based on comparing your answers with those of a broad sampling of managers nationwide and with your own subordinates. There are a few other tests and some explanatory material.

While this material may have limited use in individual study, I found it quite useful in may management consulting practice. I used the testing to explain to top management the pattern of interaction in a company. The Diagnostic Series of Thoughtware includes two other programs: Evaluating Organizational Effectiveness and Understanding Personal Interaction Styles.

I also had mixed feelings about the Thoughtware course in Leading Effectively. I am familiar with the military model of leadership training, as I experienced it in the U.S. Army's artillery officer candidate school. There, while some theoretical understanding of leadership was taught, the emphasis was on group interaction and learning by doing. Thoughtware begins by asking you to define leadership and analyze the effective leaders in your own organization. It covers the basic variables of the influence: expertise, intelligence, perspective, charisma, politics, and persistence, and offers worksheets for assessing your own functioning in your workgroup. It then covers come conditions for leadership effectiveness: communication, teamwork, participation, initiative, support, setting standards and objectives, and measuring performance. You are then led through development of a personal action plan and a workgroup action plan. The management training series of Thoughtware includes five other programs, on motivation, defining goals and objectives, employee performance, time management, and conducting meetings.

I do not think that Thoughtware is appropriate for individual study. However, I do think that it can be used very effectively by a skilled group leader, and that it may also be somewhat effective in other group settings. My criticism is based more on the limitations of the computer than on the limitations of the Thoughtware material; this is a good supplement to management training, rather than good management training in itself. The cost is high; for $350 each for nine different modules, each designed to be used by one person, I think I would rather send my managers I would rather send my managers to Harvard's Advanced Management Program.

Wordscope, from Computer Action Learning, is a training program that concentrates on the five areas of writing and speaking that were found to be the most troublesome to managers: excessive language, word selection, unnatural language, organization, and style and structure. The full Wordscope program consists of a diagnostic exercise and five series of eight exercises each; one series for each of the five problem areas.

Except for the diagnostic exercise, which is a forced pair test, the exercises are presented in game format. For example, Unnatural Language covers writing in a simple and modern style. The eight game in that series, Hotel New Jersey, is a detective mystery. You are presented with a memo containing several errors of unnatural language. As you search the memo and select better ways of saying things, you are shown the interior of different rooms in the Hotel. In the game story line, you search the hotel for the suspect who wrote the original memo.

Kern International offers several packages intended for use in training engineering students in mechanics, structural analysis, and elasticity. The packages include Visual Stress and Strain Visual Statistics, Visual statistics, and Structural Analysis Software for Micros. Visual Stress and Strain for the IBM PC was reviewed. The same package is also available for the Apple II and the Zenith Z-100

Visual Stress and Strain includes a manual and two programs written in Basic, STRESS2D and STRESS3D. The manual includes operating instructions, a tutorial review of the principles used in the programs, line listings for those who want to modify the programs for special use. The two-dimensional stress program displays on the left side of the screen square with the vectors of stress indicated by arrows and any entered data listed. The right side of the screen displays Mohr's Circle, a graphic depiction of the vector forces of the combined stress and strain. The numeric results of the calculations are also displayed, including the magnitude of the principal stresses, the maximum shear stress, and induced strains. If you enter an angle of rotation, the square is rotated on the screen and the calculations are done.

The program does the calculations and displays the results. A student could have a difficult time understanding the effects of a single component, because a half hour of recalculation (including probable mistakes) could result from changing a single variable. These programs allow you to experiment by changing variables and observing the results while the computer does the calculations.

If we assume that it is the role of a professional engineer to understand what various forces do and how and why they operate, while it is the job of a machine to provide the mechanical and repetitive support necessary, these programs are ideal educational tools.

Aircraft navigation involves complex interrelationships among instrument readings, course headings, magnetic deviations, wind direction, and other factors required for safe operation of the aircraft at the same time they are trying to develop an intuitive understanding of factors related to navigation. Another major problem in all flight training is the high cost of flying time. Computer simulation has proven to be a very effective supplement to in-flight training.

Space-Time Associates offers the Air Nav Workshop to teach the safe use of aircraft navigation aids, particularly ADF/NDB (automatic Direction Finder/Non Directional Beacon) and VOR (VHF Omnidirectional Rangefinder) equipment. The package consists of several programs for the Apple II+/IIe computers, including two simple programs to demonstrate the functioning of an ADF and a VOR.

The real heart of the program, however, is the Navigation Simulator. Here the screen displays an airspeed indicator, an elapsed timer, two VORs, and an ADF. The upper left of the screen displays a map of your navigation area, showing the position of your aircraft and various navigation aids in a simulated area 80 miles wide by 40 miles high.

The area map is divided into four quadrants, each of which is divided into four sectors. You can zoom in and out to have the screen display the area map, one quadrant, or a single sector at a time. There are more than 30 commands available to allow you to set your instruments, airspeed, heading, wind direction, and magnetic variance.

You can watch the flight path (visual flight) or have the computer store it in memory without displaying the aircraft (instrument flying) until you are finished. You can take off, fly any course you want, and land again. You can even place a landmark (perhaps your airport) on the screen and have the computer automatically calculate the bearing to two of the VORs. Each VOR station has identification letters, and the computer indicates them by sending Morse code through the speaker.

The package also includes a program that allows you to design and create your own navigation area maps with up to six VOR stations and three NDBs. A 55-page manual is provided, which in addition to giving instructions on the program, contains a tutorial on using navigation aids and reprints of several FAA handouts on navigation.

Songwriter, from Scarborough Systems, can turn almost anyone into a composer. The program functions as a player piano, displaying the notes on the screen as small blocks that move up the screen, sounding as they pass under the keyboard location. The time signature, length of notes and rests and a metronome are also displayed. You record a note by using the arrows to move to a particular key and pressing the spacebar. If it is not the note you want, you can erase it. Once you have recorded your notes, pressing P will play all the notes entered so far.

You can easily edit your composition. You can change the tempo, the length of a note, the note itself, add a rest or make other changes. While the program comes with a diatonic scale built in, you can load a pentatonic scale or even design your own scale. Each chapter in the tutorial manual contains a list of activities for teaching music composition.

Songwriter is a powerful package with many options. The reference card lists 59 commands. But you can use the program after learning only a few commands and learn the rest gradually. The manual is excellent, with lessons, activities, and a glossary. It even tells you how to take the music you have composed and add it to your own Basic programs. It is an easy and effective introduction to music composition.