Do you use CDs, writable or otherwise, in your training? In a previous TechRepublic article, “Do off-theshelf CDs have a place in your training arsenal?,” author Katy Yocom discussed several uses for these CDs in the training department. Another way to incorporate CDs into your training program is to buy a CD burner and put your own training programs on CD.

Customized CDs can be a great addition to your training toolbox, especially since the technology needed to create them is now affordable. Recordable CD drives (also called CD burners) come with a lot of options.

The two versions to consider are:

  • The basic version, which is a computer CD drive that is recordable but not changeable (CD-R). This version is good for trainers who want to back up course content or other materials from their computers or the Internet. CDs hold 650 megabytes of material, much more than a costlier Zip disk.
  • The rewritable version, which allows you to write, rewrite, erase, re-record, reshuffle, and simply add to what you’ve done (CD-RW). This option is better for trainers who create, change, and update their own multi-media content.

What to put on a CD?
According to TechRepublic’s Support community editor Jeff Davis: “You can put anything on a CD.” Well, maybe not lunch, but there are certainly all kinds of instructional materials that would be appropriate, such as:

  • Lesson plans
  • Syllabi
  • Class objectives
  • Sample documents
  • Sample programs
  • Handouts of all sorts
  • Audio and video presentations
  • Your own customized textbook

If you need to update your training materials often, a rewritable CD is your best option. Once you’ve distributed your documentation on CD initially, users can simply return the CDs to you for updates. You simply erase and re-record information, and the documentation is up-to-date—no more duplicate copies or wondering which version is the latest. Some CD burners even come with label makers, which can make your training materials look that much more professional.

Another benefit of CD-based documentation is that it is portable. You can create a CD for each laptop (as long as the laptops have CD drives) and users can take the documentation on the road. You also can send CDs to branch offices so people there will have quick and easy access to instructions and documentation, instead of having to tie up company modem lines trying to access documentation stored on an intranet.

Prices range from $299 for an HP internal CD drive (either CD-R or CD-RW) to $759 for an external drive from Plextor. There are plenty of options in between, as well. If you’re looking for a vendor, check out this list.

Do you already use a CD burner, or are you planning to do so soon? What materials do you put on the CD, and how do you use it? Has it made a difference for you in terms of flexibility, efficiency or cost-effectiveness? Write to Mary Ann with your suggestions.