If your organization is thinking about adding CBT to its repertoire of training delivery methods, there are some important nuts and bolts issues that need to be considered during the initial stages of the development process. This article is intended to help identify potential pitfalls and avoid some common mistakes so that new CBT modules are as effective and successful as they need to be.
Knowing When to Use CBT
Computer-based training is a wonderful tool, but it is not the solution for all of your training needs. There will always be a place for traditional classroom-based and practical, hands-on instruction in the training landscape. You can increase the number of possible training applications for CBT by using it in blended learning environments, essentially combining CBT with traditional instruction, but there are certain limits to its effectiveness as a stand-alone delivery mechanism. As a general rule, CBT is not the preferred method for delivering the following types of training:
• Long or multiple-day training programs.
It is generally accepted that a trainee will lose interest, and their overall retention rate will decrease after about 30 minutes of CBT time. You can get around this general limitation by breaking the content up into smaller, more manageable CBT modules. That being said, you can’t simply replace a 40-hour instructor-led training program with a similar-sized CBT. There’s just too much content to put into the CBT box. Remember, depending on your network capacity and the way you’re planning to launch the program, the bigger the CBT, the longer it will potentially take to load and the slower it will run. And from a budgeting perspective, the more time, effort and money it will cost.
• Programs that normally require a lot of interaction.
Without an instructor present, the only thing the trainee can interact with is the computer screen. Yes, you can add exercises, reference material, external links, avatars (animated characters), etc. to your CBT to make the content more comprehensive and interactive. If you have the appropriate IT infrastructure, you can even incorporate real-time communication with an instructor and/or other trainees. However, the more bells and whistles you add to the CBT, the more you run the risk of allowing the program to lose its focus or becoming too long. In addition, you may also inadvertently provide the trainee with opportunities to become lost by requiring them to drill down or interact with too many layers of information. And there is also the very real possibility the trainee will have questions that you just did not factor into your content.
• Programs that require practical or operational certification.
You can certainly use a CBT program to introduce a practical subject. CBT exercises and simulations can be powerful learning tools. But certification usually involves an instructor observing the trainee physically demonstrating the required skills in the real work environment.
• Programs with a short shelf life.
Unless you’re planning to buy an off-the-shelf product or you have experience producing CBTs in-house, developing a full blown CBT program for a topic that has a short lifespan can be an expensive exercise in both time and money.
• Programs with a small audience.
Similar to the above, if your CBT program is used infrequently it’s going to take a long time for you to receive a return on your development investment.
Selecting Appropriate Source Material
As with different types of training programs, not all content is suitable for development into CBT. Source material that hasn’t been validated, contains unstable information or depends on multiple resources is not the best subject for a CBT module. Use the following guidelines to determine whether your content is a good fit for a CBT program: