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INMM 50th Annual Meeting
July 12-16, 2009 - Tucson, Arizona, USA

Oral Presentation - Paper Number 252
The Balance Between Visual and Textual Training Material: How much is a picture really worth?

Eton Systems, Ottawa, Canada

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Ottawa, Canada

D.J. Films-Multimedia, Ottawa, Canada

The Canadian Safeguards Support Program (CSSP) has been providing the IAEA with instructional materials for many years, including training modules such as CANDU Reactor Fundamentals used in the Introductory Course on Agency Safeguards (ICAS) which is taken by all inspectors. Numerous standalone courses for instrumentation, such as the CANDU spent fuel monitor and the Digital Čerenkov Viewing Device(DCVD), have also been developed to train IAEA staff. The CSSP has pioneered the use of video and animation in both computer- and web-based self-study modules for instructing inspectors.

In 2008 the CSSP delivered a multi-media, web-based training module for the IAEA’s Quality Management System. This module was deployed on the IAEA intranet for self-instruction by all staff in the Department of Safeguards. For analytical work, the CSSP has sponsored the development of tools, techniques, and training material for satellite image analysis, and a Visualization Interface for Text Analysis (VITA).

One of the phrases often quoted is that “a picture is worth a thousand words”. But is that always true? The authors’ experience suggests that pictures, videos, and animations are very valuable, but instructional material needs to be designed for the intended audience. This involves a judicious mixture of text, images, video, sound, and animation and needs to take into account how the information will be accessed by the user.

In this paper, the authors look at several CSSP-IAEA collaborative efforts to extract some “lessons learned” about when and how to use visual and textual material including: the results of switching from static images to animations in the CANDU spent fuel monitor course; the value of visualizing search result with VITA; the surprising case where analysts preferred words to pictures; and delivery platforms for instructional material.

The suggestions and conclusions in this paper will be of value to organizations with similar mandates.

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