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Firm's future in video learning

Florida Learning Curve can train and market.

By PAUL SWIDER, Times Staff Writer
Published November 4, 2007


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INDIAN ROCKS BEACH -- When Jeffrey Nichols graduated from high school last year, his parents were told the 23-year-old autistic man was unemployable. Now he has a job, earns money and is developing social skills no one ever thought he could.

"At Jeffrey's level of autism, it's a phenomenal occurrence," said Jeffrey's mother, Dayna Nichols, who is also a special education teacher in Pinellas. "Jeffrey's proven them wrong. The self-esteem and the positives are amazing."

Jeffrey gained his shot at employment with Alsco, a linen supply business, through application of video-learning technology by newly formed Florida Learning Curve. Founder Dave Bliesner has been using video as a self-training tool for businesses through Delphi Analytical Services but started the new company to branch into special needs education.

"When I met Dave, I said you guys have an incredible tool here," Nichols said.

Bliesner takes a process as simple as baking bread or as complicated as manufacturing pharmaceuticals and videotapes the subject performing the necessary tasks. He then creates a segmented, computerized video the trainee can use to learn and relearn the task.

"A picture is worth 1,000 words and a video is worth a million, but a video of yourself doing something is incalculable," Bliesner said of his patent pending process. "We've tapped into some fundamental learning principles nobody's ever been into."

Bliesner made a movie of Jeffrey working at the laundry facility at Bay Pines, part of a school-related work task. That "workumentary" was all he needed to get hired at Alsco.

"If the employer had met Jeffrey before he saw that video, Jeffrey never would have gotten in the door," Dayna said, because Jeffrey's social skills preclude a formal interview. "But with this video resume, the employer saw Jeffrey's strengths before he ever saw his challenges."

Bliesner has made similar workumentaries for other area students as he grows FLC. He's about to begin licensing the technology that started years ago because he, himself, needed training.

Bliesner, who has a doctorate in analytical chemistry, was in charge of research and quality control at Somerset Pharmaceuticals in Tampa when one day in 1995 he found he needed to work the line. But he couldn't remember how, so he thought about how nice it would be to have a film of himself working to which he could refer as needed. The idea stuck with him until the technology caught up with him.

Years later, after testing the idea by using it to teach his 9-year-old son to bake bread, Bliesner knew he had something. With his knowledge of the pharmaceutical business, Bliesner tapped their training needs and the desire to avoid mistakes.

Drug manufacturing requires precise training because mistakes can force expensive corrections. Bliesner's training tool has answered needs for companies like Abbott Laboratories, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and Schering-Plough.

Bliesner's wife, Kathy, connected the business to the school. Now FLC is about to license its technology to Placement Works, a nonprofit that works with brain injury victims.

The technology could go in other directions still. With data storage becoming faster and cheaper, the ability to video record everything someone does gets easier and easier, meaning the possibilities for recall, retention and retraining on everything from high-tech manufacturing to learning a foreign language could change education for anyone.

Dayna Nichols thinks about Alzheimer's patients using a variant of the FLC technology. But mostly she thinks Jeffrey's life, a life that could have been a problem and is now an opportunity.

"This tool is critical," she said. "It opened the door for us."

Paul Swider can be reached at pswider@sptimes.com or 892-2271.

[Last modified November 3, 2007, 22:17:32]


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