Does productivity have to be sacrificed for the training and knowledge development of employees? Is classroom learning always the most effective way of improving employee skills? Not if you can take training to the desktop, contends John McIlwaine, president of Innovative Knowledge Products Inc. That's exactly how his training product, software called KnowDev, is being used at Oc Printing Systems in Boca Raton, Fla., and other customer sites. Instead of being built around classroom sessions, KnowDev's interface resides on every user's computer, enabling multimedia-based learning to be delivered to employee desktops in short, informational intervals that McIlwaine calls recurrent learning breaks. The theory behind KnowDev is to unleash the building blocks of the desired knowledge in short timed intervals throughout an employee's work day. McIlwaine, a consult-ant turned entrepreneur, points out that information reinforced over long periods of time has been proven to be the most effective route to lifelong learning, the educational model espoused by continuous-improvement experts. The KnowDev approach also can make it easy to exceed the national annual training average of 32 hours per person. "By programming five-minute sessions four times a day, annual training time accumulates to more than 80 hours," adds McIlwaine. Keeping employees at their workstations while they learn also has some important cost-saving implications. Of the $55.3 billion U.S. employers spent on training in 1995, slightly more than half ($28.9 billion) involved indirect costs -- the wages and fringe benefits paid while employees were in classrooms, says McIlwaine. Training is just one of the tasks the KnowDev system will perform for Oc. "They saw the potential for using KnowDev to accomplish multiple goals -- internal training, distribution of ISO documentation, and serving as a source for human-resource information and policies," adds McIlwaine. "The benefits of such enterprise-wide implementations become apparent as customers analyze how KnowDev can simplify information delivery within their organ-izations. They discover that the concept differs from reference tools such as intranets. While such tools go a long way toward solving the information-availability problem, they do not necessarily educate employees." He says simply making information available does not, by any means, guarantee that the information will be turned into knowledge. The distinction is that electronic libraries, like intranets, allow employees to "pull" information from a central source, while KnowDev "pushes" important information to employees during recurrent learning breaks as part of a plan for achievement. Using the company's Admin software module, systems can be centrally controlled and managed. Training administrators can use the feature to track progress and observe strengths and weaknesses. While the learning breaks are programmed, users are able to interrupt and delay sessions to accommodate special or unexpected work-schedule problems. Customers can select from a range of available study courses or they can use the KnowDev Builder, a multimedia authoring tool, to create and electronically deliver needed information -- flowcharts, pictures, graphics, and documents. McIlwaine says the company is continuing to build partnerships with outside providers to broaden the scope of learning modules or courses available. "Eventually we hope to make the Builder module available to any third party that wishes to provide course content," he adds. KnowDev can be implemented on standalone PCs or networks, and systems can accommodate intranet/Internet connections.