What's best: solo learning

or instructor-led training?

Quick: what do ILT, CBT, WBT and MBT have in common? If you said the letter "t" you are correct. The "t" stands for training, but the balance of technology and human interaction varies from program to program. To understand the benefits and challenges of each, let's examine them individually.

Computer-based training is a "self-service" approach to learning. Think of it as the difference between shopping at Sam's Club and a full-service department store like Macy's. In one environment, you have the freedom to look at whatever you please; in the other, you have the benefit of having someone there to explain the differences among the products.

CBT is a warehouse concept, where you can wander from aisle to aisle, aided by the information in each program. For example, if you were interested in learning about the the Windows 95 operating system, you would install both the operating system and the computer-based training program onto your computer. The CBT program would give you a number of initial assessment tests designed to determine what you already know, and then guide you through what you don't know. At the end of the program, you would take another series of tests to assess your progress.

Multimedia-based training is another technology-driven technique. It employs those programs that integrate voice, video and text data. There are disadvantages to both CBT and MBT, however. While students are face-to-face with the latest in interactive technology, they are also left to their own devices when there are technical problems. Such independent training may best be left to those who are comfortable with the trouble-shooting aspects of computer hardware and software.

The Internet is home to another training technique, web-based training. The downside to WBT, observed Esther Schindler in the February 1997 issue of "Inside Technology Training," is that "students sign up for online classes just like they join health clubs. After three weeks, the exercise cycle and course materials begin to grow dust." Students do not feel as if they are in a virtual classroom, but in an individualized tutorial setting where learning is optional. Workforce trainees may experience a similar feeling, but pressure may be exerted by their managers to complete the course.

Instructor-led training is the department-store approach. Each student is guided by an actual classroom teacher, and every question or problem receives an immediate answer.

The success criteria of any training method is the extent to which students retain and apply course knowledge. The best learning appears to come from a combination of all of these methods. Emory's Short Course Program offers ILT programs, as well as CBT and WBT courses using online materials. As these and other methodologies continue to evolve, the Short Course Program will integrate them into its suite of training opportunities.

Susan Teller Goodman is manager of the Instructional Group, Computing Resource Services, ITD. The Instructional Group offers the Short Course Program, customized courses and tutoring, technical help for projects, computing classroom rentals, and other technical training assistance as needed by the Emory community.

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