Computer Based Training
Definition: Computer-based training (CBT) is, as the name suggests,
training that can be delivered by a computer, with or without additional aid
from trainers. Initially developed for stand-alone computers, CBT is now more
normally delivered over a network.
Introduction to CBT
Computer-based training involves developing courses that can be delivered using
a PC. Nowadays they can be very complex, mixing graphics, video and audio on an
ordinary PC so that realistic training situations can be replicated. CBT is
sometimes called computer-based learning (CBL) or, if delivered over the
internet, e-learning or web-based training (WBT).
CBT can be considered a sub-set of distance learning, where students can learn
on their own using materials provided by a school or commercial company as
opposed to being in a classroom. CBT is essentially distance learning using a
computer rather than a book, audio-tape or other method.
Development of CBT
CBT started almost as soon as computers became common in large organisations.
The initial applications tended to be training on the computer itself, just like
a modern tutorial in the help files of a PC-based application. This was all on
mainframes but as mini-computers became more powerful and cheaper a number of
companies developed specialist hardware and software which could mix video and
graphics to deliver realistic training simulations.
When the PC arrived the sophistication that the specialist companies had
developed quickly became mainstream. CBT companies therefore stopped making
hardware and concentrated on developing software to create and deliver CBT. This
was usually delivered remotely, on floppy disks, then CDs and DVDs before the
advent of networks and the Internet took CBT online.
Benefits of CBT
CBT is a lot more flexible than classroom-based training or training in
real-life situations. Students can go through training as and when they have
spare time rather than being tied to a classroom schedule or waiting for their
turn the relevant equipment. Compared to learning from a book CBT is more
interactive and there is evidence that learning is better remembered.
Compared to classroom situations, CBT has less of a
although this is beginning to change with Internet enabled training systems.
Learning professionals generally agree that the most effective training is
gained from a combination of different methods: CBT, books, classroom tutoring
and real-life experience.
What's Involved in Developing CBT?
There are three stages to producing a CBT program for a particular subject:
first, computerising the subject knowledge, second, designing and constructing
the training package (a process known as 'authoring') and finally building the
program for distribution to the PC.
Subject matter experts are required for the first phase where knowledge is
recreated using words, pictures and video for later use. Learning professionals
then design and create the CBT using either specialist authoring software or
general purpose software such as Flash.
The resulting program, which usually includes questions and tests as well as
lessons, is then tested, manufactured and delivered. In some cases the PC will
require particular software to deliver the CBT to the student but increasingly
CBT is being written or converted so that it will run in a browser, making it
easier and simpler to reach a wider audience.
Business Reasons for Embracing CBT
Computer-based training has many advantages to offer organisations, both
commercial and public. In fact military training applications were some of the
earliest to be computerised. In the public sector companies with strict and
complex training requirements such and airlines and telecommunications companies
were the first to see the value of CBT.
Case Study: Airline Pilot Training
A good example is that of commercial airline pilot training. This is a huge
overhead for airlines with strictly controlled government standards, not only to
train pilots in the first place but also for continued training to refresh the
pilots' knowledge and introduce new aircraft, systems or methods. Aircraft
simulators were developed so that pilots could train in all weathers, around the
clock and crucially, without risking real, expensive airliners.
But simulators in themselves are still expensive to buy or rent time on. By
developing CBT in the 1980s, in particular using a mix of video (albeit on 12"
laser discs), graphics and audio, some airlines were able to cut down on the
amount of simulator time that their pilots required to gain and sustain their
qualifications. This in turn made pilot training cheaper and faster and cut
simulator training costs. Airlines who owned their own simulators started hiring
them out to other airlines once CBT had been embraced.
Managing CBT and Distance Learning
The wider adoption of CBT has also led to a need to manage the training
environment. This has presented a new opportunity for software companies who
have developed learning management systems that track and record the training
and qualifications that individuals have achieved.