December 13, 2017 by Ellen Camloh
In Thailand, an average of 11.7 million customers visit 7-Eleven stores each day, a number equivalent to nearly 20% of the country’s population.
Servicing them requires a lot of stores (9,542 in the country, at last count) and a lot of employees to train.
But 7-Eleven stores in Thailand offer much more than the classic convenience shops that people in Western countries are accustomed to seeing. Licensed by CP All (a subsidiary of the country’s largest private company, CP Group), 7-Eleven stores in the “land of smiles” are actually compact versions of full-service retail establishments.
And that means working in one of them comes with more responsibilities than just an after-school job running a cash register.
On the contrary, it’s a professional-track career that requires complete knowledge of the retail industry and skills such as computer literacy, the art of selling, product exhibition, quality assurance and productivity.
Training doesn’t take a week. It takes a comprehensive vocational curriculum for retail, provided by Panyapiwat College of Technology.
Long Distances, High Standards
Panyapiwat Technological College, or PAT as it is known, is operated by CP All as a workforce training facility for 7-Eleven stores. It has developed a curriculum that emphasizes theoretical study, practical learning, direct retail expertise and a place to practice the actual work.
And what’s more, students who complete the vocational program will not only be thoroughly trained to run the operations of 7-Eleven stores in Thailand. They will be guaranteed a job.
The problem? PAT is located in Bangkok, home to 44% of 7-Eleven’s retail units, which is highly convenient for the students who will go on to work in one of the Bangkok and surrounding region’s 4,200 stores.
But training students to operate the other 56%, the 5,300 branches in the outer provinces of Thailand, with the identical level of knowledge and experience is more challenging.
“We want to make learning interesting for students,” according to the staff of four specialists who run the training facility’s Technical Control Room at PAT - Tanatheplit Poonthong, Surachet Wongchampa, Chayakon Kulayon, and Sareerat Yanwises. Just as importantly, the school is committed to ensuring remote students can learn to the same high standard as the students on-site.
“PAT wants to offer educational materials that students can view and absorb but also deeply understand at the same time,” say the technical team. “If the student does not immediately understand the content of the instructional media, they can ask questions directly with the instructor in the moment.”
In the classroom, this is simple, because the student is present in the same space as the instructor. But from a remote location, it’s not as easy to keep students interested, or to ensure the material is engaging enough to hold their attention.
So PAT needed a solution for distance learning that could surpass the typical text-based, static LMS (learning management system) and capture the highly engaging material for remote students in a way that was identical to what the classroom students could experience.
Too Much Equipment
The school started with a traditional video system it could use to transmit the courses to remote sites, but there were two problems with this approach.
“Before we installed our current solution, the studio system we used was analog, with many amplifiers and multiple signal transponders,” says the group. If the school wanted any new capability, it would require adding new equipment to the system, which takes up space and requires additional maintenance.
Furthermore, the people on the technical staff responsible for running the equipment are technicians – they have IT, computer and other systems experience, but, according to the technical staff, “they’re not video experts.”
Secondly, the specialists say, despite the school’s commitment to adding greater engagement and interest, the older system “made it difficult to bring advanced production style to enhance teaching effectiveness.”
The school uses visual, interactive media as a primary means for instructors to teach students, such as PowerPoint or Prezi presentations presented by instructors; encouraging students to participate, communicate, and engage in activities during teaching and assessment. “This is usually something that keeps students interested, and we get a positive response from students to the creation of this type of media.”
Old technology would no longer suffice. They required a video production system they could use in their studio room to deliver sophisticated remote broadcasts appropriate to their classroom learning.
They needed one that could enhance presentations with creative and engaging visuals, work with the various presentation applications the instructors like to use, and allow people who are not experts to produce an attractive, live broadcast.
“We chose NewTek TriCaster® because it is easy to use,” says the group. “It’s a flexible system that works well with many other devices, and also reduces the number of devices and peripherals we need to control all broadcasts.”
What’s more, they agree, “it makes the media more interesting and varied. This affects the students’ interest and achievement in a greatly improved way.”
So much improved, in fact, that they’re now equipped with two TriCaster 410 systems in two studios, with integration provided by Monsan Pipatponglert, engineering consultant at integrator Samart Comtech – and broadcasting them via satellite and digital terrestrial to remote sites.
Says Raymond Siew, a NewTek product expert and sales engineer, the school is broadcasting seven days a week, with programming in two parts – live broadcasts for the first half of the day, then a replay of the entire program for the second half.
The content of the live show, says Siew, is typically a lecturer, instructing students how to use various applications for specific tasks – “such as showing steps and tips to create a PowerPoint, and how to add animation to a slide, and things like that.”
The lecturer would be working on a desktop computer, with its display output via an HDMI cable to an SDI converter that connects into the TriCaster 410. “They will do everything they need to in their PC application, and everything on their screen is captured into the TriCaster.”
With the computer screen feeding into the TriCaster, the video operator can switch back and forth between sources – including the lecturer’s camera, additional video feeds, and even Skype calls with a remote site – while the lecturer proceeds to work with the presentation.
While PAT has a couple of staff members who operate the system during productions, says Siew, TriCaster allows them to preset many functions so they can do more elaborate effects without a great deal of expertise – a crucial requirement of the solution.
“We’re not concerned about how long it will take to train TriCaster beginners,” say the technical specialists. “We do not worry, because TriCaster is easy to use.”
Engage from a Distance
This is important to the school, because if the technology is inaccessible to the people using it, then staff and instructors won’t be inclined to update their instructional material to keep up with technology and visual advancements.
“TriCaster allows us to mix a combination of interactive media and teachers by teaching, explaining, or presenting learning activities, all in one set of functions, which is great,” according to the PAT technical staff.
Beyond the logistical advantages of requiring fewer attached devices – for instance, handling audio and video in the same system – and making it easy for non-experts to use, the major benefit PAT administrators see is how well TriCaster’s visual and multimedia capabilities can be used to engage remote viewers.
The staff says a number of elements in the system have added much-needed creativity to their remote programs. “We use overlays to add visuals to our green screen in the studio, and we can change the instructor’s background,” for one thing, they say.
Additionally, they can key multiple sources over an image using an M/E, stacking several elements over each other to emulate a 3D scene. They can give the productions a professional broadcast look by adding lower-third titles over the video.
“All of these things have affected our visuals very positively. Students are more interested in the teaching materials we can create with TriCaster, which gives them a higher academic achievement. They can interact with teachers who teach through live broadcast more, and keep their attention focused on the activities taking place.”
As the 7-Eleven brand continues to grow in Thailand (the company is targeting a goal of 10,000 stores in the country by 2018), the future of distance learning at PAT could follow a growing path as well, with TriCaster as its central production tool.
At the moment, its remote Skype calls come through using desktop Skype software on a connected PC. The ability to connect a NewTek TalkShow® system would allow the call to come through full-screen (without the Skype software user interface) and enable the operator to color-correct the caller’s video to make it appear an integrated part of the production.
And adding video over IP – using the NewTek NDI® IP video interface for network-connected video sources – could open up their training solution to more remote sites, by contributing to, interacting with, and viewing the classroom or studio broadcast over Ethernet and even Wi-Fi.
Already, PAT is broadcasting 7 days, an average of 11 hours a day. The school is getting more remote students focused on applying the classroom knowledge to practice in the workplace, and keeping them engaged in their courses.
“TriCaster helps make the teaching look more appealing,” say the Technical Control Room staff. “This makes students interested in learning more. All the ways we can change visuals, make the scene look more sophisticated, these things make the students interested.”
And from where they’re sitting, TriCaster makes learning that much more convenient.
NewTek thanks Tanatheplit Poonthong, Surachet Wongchampa, Chayakon Kulayon, and Sareerat Yanwises of PAT for their assistance in providing information for this story
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