Training becomes more animated

Michigan Department of Community Health

Andrew Silver soon may have help training new staff members at the Michigan

Department of Community Health — Merlin the Magician and Peedy the Parrot.

Both are 3-D talking animated characters that Silver, director of training

for the department's Office of Recipient Rights, will use in a slide show

for training new hires.

Developed by Golden, Colo.-based Right Seat Software Inc., Vox Proxy

is a scripting program that features 17 animated characters that can move

and talk in Microsoft Corp. PowerPoint presentations. The program and its

characters have been used by teachers and other public-sector employees

to add a little zing to presentations.

At least that's what Silver is using it for.

"The first slide is one of the characters coming out and giving an introduction

about recipient rights...and all of that," he said. "So instead of seeing

a slide and seeing words and then clicking the button to go on to the next

slide, they're seeing a character talking to them. And to me that gives

it a little more animation. That gives it a little more interest to someone."

He said it's also pretty easy to use. "You can tell the characters to

move across the slide, right, left, up, down, you can tell them to disappear,

you can tell them to wave their arms. There are several gestures associated

with each character. It's really cool. It's almost like making a movie,"

he said.

Silver said his office deals with learning about state laws, which can

be a little dry. "Our laws are talking about what constitutes abuse of patients

so it's kind of important to us [that] they get this and they get it right,"

he said.

Although the computer-based training won't replace face-to-face training,

Silver said he believed it might help people pay more attention to a 20-minute

presentation. He said he would assess whether such individualized computer

training would better help retention of information.

Once Silver finishes scripting the presentation — in about three months

— it will be available on the agency's network for new staff members to


"We'll come up with some way of ascertaining whether they've logged

in and gone through with the thing, and we may do some questions afterwards

so I know they got the concept," he said, adding that it can be used for

annual training updates.

In addition to a general presentation, Silver may develop in-depth presentations

covering issues such as abuse and confidentiality.

The software starts at about $200, works with PowerPoint 2000 or 2002,

requires minimum 64M of RAM and an Intel Corp. Pentium II processor or better.


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