Educational technology had already made its first grand leap into the future long before the internet.
Since back when computers were the size of a small room, people had sensed the new technology’s potential for educational use. They began to experiment with it and make plans on how to use it to enhance the human learning experience.
By then, many pioneering educational theories had promoted the practice of individualized learning. It was a much different approach than classroom-based, teacher-led processes. Learners would interact with the learning material on their own, take brief tests in-between and receive automated feedback to self-check their progress.
However, individualized instruction methods were still difficult to implement to large groups of learners.
Computer technology made that possible for the first time. Computer scientists combined the new tech with earlier visionary theories, and soon, they developed the first ever computer-based training software.
From then on, things took their course.
What is Computer-based Training?
Usually referred to as CBT, computer-based training (also known as computer-based learning or computer-based instruction) is an interactive instructor-less educational process.
Practically, learners interact with various types of learning material via computer. Computer-based training courses come in different shapes and forms. They can be multimedia-enhanced textbooks, tutorials, practice drills or even micro-world simulations. The learning material comes in computer-based training software packages. To access and take these courses, learners have to know how to use such software.
CBT training has been around for as long as computers have. However, CBT’s roots can be traced back to preexisting individualized training approaches. Programmed instruction and mastery learning, for instance, possess some of the basic traits that define computer-based training:
– Delivering small chunks of information in a step-by-step manner.
– Prompting learners to respond to a lesson periodically, e.g., by taking brief tests.
– Providing learners with feedback on their responses or overall progress.
– Allowing learners to take courses at their own pace.
– Setting learning prerequisites for moving on to the next lesson.
By combining such methods with computer software, training programs that put the learner in charge were finally possible after the 60s. Later on, as computer-based training software evolved, CBT could be provided on-site via local networks.
However, it was still quite costly to design, build and implement. That’s why most computer-based training examples from that era involve specific uses like training people in how to use software applications.
In the 90s, as the use of internet became widespread, things were pushed forward once again. Computer-based training could now be delivered online and reach learners everywhere via the world wide web.
CBT was taking a new form: web-based training.
CBT vs. WBT
Strictly speaking, web-based training is a type of CBT training. But if we had to separate the two, we would use the term “computer-based training” in its traditional sense and focus on their defining differences.
That is, WBT’s online delivery and vast potential for user interactivity.
Browser-based training, anytime & anywhere
Thanks to modern browser-based applications, web-based training courses are readily accessible to all types of computers and smart devices. Powered by web technology, WBT can reach people everywhere and bring together dispersed learners and instructors in virtual classrooms.
Instructor-led training, collaborative workshops, webinars and various hybrid-learning scenarios are possible with WBT’s interactivity, communication, and teleconferencing capabilities.
Web-based training programs deliver dynamic media-rich content, either native or imported from various web sources. That content can be updated or improved at any given moment. Even during the training process, either by instructors or learners themselves.
Software-based training, standardized & secure
On the other hand, computer-based training courses are offline, individualized, and self-paced learning activities. They are software-based (the related term used to be “courseware”), and free from connectivity issues, bandwidth demands, and online distractions.
Their content is part of the CBT software package, and its upgrading depends on the manufacturer’s support. CBT courses are standardized, and cover subjects that learners can study individually, as computer-based training does not allow for user interaction or blended learning situations.
Deployed locally, computer-based training software can only be accessed on site by authorized users. Therefore, it does not affect infrastructure security.
Offline computer-based training is less agile, easy to deliver and “hip” than its modern web-based version.
Nonetheless, it is a tried-and-tested method for companies of any type or size to train large bodies of employees on site. CBT training is manageable, highly secure and capable of producing immediate and tangible results. A possible asset to any company that truly invests in their training.
The Three Timeless Benefits of Computer-based Training
Compared to conventional instructor-led programs, a corporate computer-based training system can take a lot more time and work to prepare and deploy. Companies have to build the basic infrastructure for their system and put together a qualified team of experts to set it up.
However, if they do it right, they will soon reap the long-term benefits of computer-based training:
CBT is cost-effective
Developing custom CBT training software to deliver corporate training programs can seem quite costly at first glance. However, tailor-made computer-based training programs can prove extremely efficient and gradually reduce training overhead.
Custom-built computer-based learning software can meet a company’s recurring training needs, general and specific. That way, it eliminates the need for traditional training methods along with their costs.
A computer-based training system is always accessible and capable of accommodating an unlimited number of learners. These learners train on company grounds, without ever leaving the workplace and for as long as they need to. That means no extra costs and no additional working hours lost.
In the long run, CBT training is an investment that can save companies lots of money spent on instructor, classroom, travel and teaching-material expenses.
CBT is flexible and efficient
Classroom-based corporate training can be a dragging, time-consuming process for both employers and employees, often with questionable results.
CBT allows learners to complete their training at their own pace, optimize their learning schedule and focus on their specific skill gaps. As they proceed on their learning path, they receive valuable feedback to correct or motivate them.
Modern computer-based training software enables companies to set up a non-stop training center with advanced performance tracking and assessment capabilities. Measurable results help employers evaluate their training programs and further optimize them for efficiency.
CBT is standardized and consistent
In traditional training programs, the same courses are often delivered differently to various learners as instructors can be inconsistent or simply change regularly.
Computer-based learning programs deliver courses in the exact same manner. The courses consist of the same content, complete with the same preliminary tests, self-check questions, and post-lesson quizzes. As a result, all employees interact with the same learning material and progress simultaneously, even if they have to go back and retake a course.
Free from teaching countless classes to worn out employees, instructors put all their time and effort into keeping CBT courses updated and efficient.
How to Create Computer-based Training That Works
As we mentioned above, to make the most of a computer-based training system, companies need to bring together experts from various fields. These include course building, UX and graphic design, computer programming, e.t.c.
By collaborating smoothly and efficiently, a team of experts can produce a well designed, effective training program tailored to company requirements. To do that, they need to combine some or all of the following techniques:
A standard form of a computer-based training course is the tutorial.
That can either be practical, like how to assemble a mechanical part or conceptual, like how a set of rules benefits a company’s operation in the long run. A tutorial can present information in lecture format aided by multimedia and other presentation material. Brief question tests can pop-up between sections to help the learner check their progress and repeat accordingly.
Drill and practice
Effective skill-building CBT courses often include drill and practice exercises.
These are small repetitive tasks designed to prompt the learner to practice what they learned moments ago. That way, learners better retain what they learn through repetitive action, whether that’s a new skill or a new concept. The basic reflexes developed through drill and practice can also prove useful further down a training program.
Another way to make the most of well-designed computer-based training software is to use it for building simulated training environments.
Simulations invite learners to enter real-life situations virtually. There, they can move around and interact with their virtual surroundings to practice their skills or develop new ones. By incorporating techniques like gamification into the simulated experience, course designers can boost learner engagement and training results.
An even more powerful way to use simulated environments for training is to have learners deal with events they have only seen in theory. Many familiar examples of computer-based learning refer to such simulations. These include training people in how to operate heavy equipment (e.g., cranes) and vehicles (e.g., aircrafts) or how to work safely in hazardous environments (e.g., oil rigs).
Problem-solving exercises are elemental to training courses as they help develop a learner’s critical thinking skills.
Throughout a course, learners have to deal with “problems” or “issues.” Before proceeding, they have to resolve these problems by taking logical steps, following directions correctly and putting their recently acquired knowledge to use.
That way, learners better absorb intricate learning material and sharpen their on-the-job decision-making skills.
CBT courses can also include specially designed games. That way, they can leverage the learners’ competitive instincts to promote engagement and knowledge retention.
Besides being quite fun, educational games prompt users to combine what they have learned with their physical, visual and cognitive skills. As they come face to face with various challenges, puzzles or simulated action, they need to think and act quickly to proceed to a higher level or reach the highest score.
Gamification is an essential element of advanced computer-based training software. If done right, it keeps learners interested in meeting their learning objectives and doing it in excellence.
So, what is CBT training, in a nutshell?
It is a cost-effective, flexible and consistent way for organizations to provide their employees with self-paced engaging training on a regular basis.
However, to create computer-based training that ultimately proves successful, companies first have to provide their people with the right tools. Choosing the best computer-based training software is an integral part of a company’s CBT program’s future success.
Choose it wisely, use it to its full extent, and the sky’s the limit for your company’s custom-built training program.