Computer-Based Training

Computer-based training is becoming increasingly prevalent as technology becomes more widespread and easy to use. Though traditional forms of training are not likely to be replaced completely by technological solutions, they will most likely be enhanced by them. Human interaction will always remain a key component of workplace training.

Nonetheless, it is a good idea to look more closely at what training technologies have to offer and how they might be used to supplement existing training programs or used when developing new ones. Computer-based training formats vary from the simplest text-only programs to highly sophisticated multimedia programs to virtual reality. Consider the following types:

Text-only. The simplest computer-based training programs offer self-paced training in a text-only format. These programs are similar to print-based, individualized training modules with the addition, in most cases, of interactive features. While simple in format, these programs can be highly effective and present complicated information and concepts in a comprehensible and easily accessible way.

CD-ROM. A wide variety of off-the-shelf training programs covering a broad range of workplace topics are available on CD-ROM. Programs can also be created by training consultants for the specific needs of the particular organization or individual departments.

Multimedia. These training materials are an advanced form of computer-based training. They are much more sophisticated than the original text-only programs. In addition to text, they provide stimulating graphics, audio, animation, and/or video. Multimedia tends to be more provocative and challenging and, therefore, more stimulating to the adult mind. Although costs are higher than text-only software, the benefits in terms of employee learning may well be worth it. Multimedia training materials are typically found in DVD format.

Virtual reality. Virtual reality is three-dimensional and interactive, immersing the trainee in a learning experience. Most virtual reality training programs take the form of simulation, which is a highly effective form of training. It is hands-on experience without the risks of actual performance. Flight simulators, for example, have been used successfully for years to train airline and military pilots in critical flying skills, as well as to prepare them for emergency situations in a safe and forgiving environment.

Advantages
Computer-based training programs are easy to use.
They can often be customized or custom designed.
They are good for helping employees develop and practice new skills.
They are useful for refresher training. They are applicable to self-directed learning.

They can be cost-effective because the same equipment and program can be used by large numbers of employees.
They are flexible because trainees can learn at their own pace and at a time that’s convenient for them. Computer-based programs are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No matter which shift an employee works, training is always available.

Some programs are interactive, requiring trainees to answer questions, make choices, and experience the consequences of those choices. This interaction generally results in greater comprehension and retention.
They are uniform, which makes it possible to standardize training.

They are measurable. When computers are used for training, it is possible to track what each employee has learned right on the computer. Most programs have post-tests to determine whether the employee has understood the training. Test scores give trainers statistics for training evaluations.

Disadvantages
These programs require trainees to be computer literate.
They require trainees to have computer access.
There is little or no interaction with a trainer; if trainees have questions, there’s no one to ask.
These programs are not effective at teaching “soft-skills,” such as customer service, sales, or sensitivity training.
They are not the best choice for new or one-time training. Trainers need live interaction to ensure new skills or concepts are being communicated. Trainees need to be able to ask questions and receive feedback.

Some poorly designed programs are “boring” and result in trainees having a poor retention rate of the material as well as a low finish rate.

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