• Adults like to apply what they learn as soon as possible.
Like the old adage says, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Adults learn best when the subject matter has an immediate application for them. As a result CBT can work extremely well as just-in-time training in the work environment. You can use CBT:
- When an employee transfers into a new section.
- As a refresher before a worker starts a job that he or she hasn’t completed in a long time.
- When a new piece of equipment or a new business process arrives in the department.
Your CBT module should contain information that the trainees can use right away. It should allow them to learn at their own pace and gain insight from their mistakes in a safe and controlled environment.
Beware of Dancing Baloney
There is another old adage that says, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” It’s very easy to get carried away with all the bells and whistles that are available to the CBT developer.
If you’ve ever sat through a meeting where the speaker has fallen in love with all the slide transitions, animations, sound effects and special features their presentation software has, then you understand. It all becomes too distracting after a while. The same thing happens in a CBT. The more “stuff” put on screen, the harder it is for the trainee to find the really important information. Things to consider when designing the user interface:
• Create a style guide or template for the on-screen elements.
A little upfront planning and consistency will have a huge impact on the look and feel of your module. If your user interface is predictable and easy to understand, then the trainee will feel more comfortable. The less confusion they feel, the easier it will be for them to absorb your content:
- Choose a base font and font size for on-screen text.
- Ensure sufficient contrast between text and the background screen so that it can be comfortably read.
- Ensure your on-screen text is grammatically correct.
- Apply a consistent formatting scheme and to all text (for example, do not use underlining for emphasis — it makes the word or phrase look like a hypertext link).
- Establish a consistent hierarchy of headings, labels and titles.
• Nothing should appear on screen that doesn’t support or advance learning.
It’s easy to be seduced by glitzy effects and special features. But if the special effect doesn’t advance the learning — or worse still, gets in the way — what good is it? An interface that includes a cluttered screen, alarming colors, flashing lights, dramatic changes in font size, unnecessary sounds, animation for the sake of animation, and complicated screen transitions will cause the trainee to lose focus and concentrate on the medium instead of the message. Basically, it all boils down to two things: don’t distract the trainee and don’t interrupt the learning process. In the case of on-screen elements, more is definitely less.
• Ensure the trainee can always get back to the lesson.
If you’ve ever become lost while surfing the Internet, then you know how difficult it can be to find your way out. Jumping from link to link, or drilling down through multiple layers of information is like exploring a cave. You never know where the next twist or turn is going to take you. So, if you’re planning to include pop-ups, PDF files, hypertext links and other navigational elements in your CBT, ensure that:
- There are no dead end links.
- On-screen elements such as pop-ups can be easily closed.
- Viewing supporting information doesn’t require opening another application.
- Module travel is bi-directional.
Working With an External Vendor
If you want to incorporate CBTs into your training catalog, but you don’t have the time, resources or skills to develop them in-house, then you’re probably thinking about working with an outside vendor. There are lots of companies and individuals who specialize in this form of program development to choose from. Here are some things to consider when you’re going out into the CBT developer market: