Re: QUESTION: CBT v. Training

Subject: Re: QUESTION: CBT v. Training
From: Matt Craver <MCraver -at- OPENSOLUTIONS -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 16 Mar 1998 19:07:07 -0500

ELISSA LYNN BEBEE [elb600z -at- MAIL -dot- ODU -dot- EDU]
> My department has recently taken a major hit as far as our trainers
>concerned. The company believes that we can replace the trainers with
>written and intuitively developed CBTs. I tend to agree with my company
>that CBTs offer more than a trainer because they can present the same
>material as a trainer would but for much less money. What are some
>thoughts out there on Computer Based Training versus training in the
>flesh. Are we just fooling ourselves or is CBT the next wave of
>information transmission.
As with many things, "it depends". I have produced CBT materials,
written documentation, and "live training" classes for our company,
depending on audience, subject, and what might be loosely termed
"perceived needs". I think CBT (and videotape training) have their
place when:
1. The student will be expected to use the material to answer most of
their questions.
2. The subject can be condensed into a fairly short session. For home
use, I think 10 - 30 minutes a session is accepted by users, but I don't
have a good idea of a total number of sessions that the user will
actually get through. In the office, I think you can ask for 1-2&1/2
hours a session before people lose interest, depending upon user
interactivity. I think you can only ask for the user to spend the
equivalent of two working days with a CBT, but there is probably some
3. The author can safely assume that the student will actually be
motivated to complete the required training. At least you can keep an
eye on live students, and report back to their supervisor if they are
nodding off or playing Minesweeper. And will they make the time and
space available to use it?
4. The subject matter builds on known skill or knowledge sets. What I
mean by this is that CBT or videos work best when you know what audience
you are writing to - what they know about the subject already, what
their general computer skill level is, perhaps their experience or
education levels, knowledge of the general industry, etc.
5. You have a stable product. We all have maintenance issues with paper
documentation, with CBT it is even worse. Unless you distribute in HTML
via the Web or and extranet, the CD-ROMS are perceived, in my
experience, as "authoritative" and "stable" (whatever that means to the
6. If a large number of users need to hear the exact same information or
learn the same exact skill set, then CBT or other MBT is ideal.
I'd guess my preference for rolling out CBT is in presenting
product updates or enhancements to a known user base. New users have
too many questions. If these questions are not answered in a training
class, the user has two options: call customer support (increasing
expenses) or find a better-trained product (decreasing revenues).
Beware of the false economy of eliminating salaries, you can wind up
spending more if done poorly.
As to your fearful colleagues, I'd encourage them to take the
lead on this an work on their multimedia skills. IMHO, the best CBT
comes from trainers that learn multimedia skills, not multimedia
developers that learn (usually, fail to learn) adult education skills.
Good luck
-Matthew Craver,
Technical Documentation
Open Solutions Inc.
Mcraver -at- opensolutions -dot- com

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