Computer Based Training; a Contradiction in Terms

"Computer Based Training; a Contradiction in Terms" is an article regarding the pros and cons of online training and its shortcomings.

Have you been properly trained to do your job? It’s a simple question that typically elicits a simple response; yes or no. But does training imply competence? Certainly not in my experience as a trainer of forklift operators. Delivered properly, training will provide the what, how and why relating to everything operators need to know and do, but what it cannot do is determine that most important of all questions; can they actually do it? There is only one way to find out – put them in the seat and have them go to it.

Computer based training (CBT) programs, in spite of their often flashy graphics and cool soundtracks, cannot even begin to determine operational competence and I think everyone knows that including the producers of such programs. However, it is my personal belief that CBT, also known by the misnomer “interactive,” do very little to develop and/or determine knowledge as well.

Don’t get me wrong, electronic training aids can do wonders in filling out the visual component of a training session but they are enhancements at best, they should never be at the core of the training program. A qualified human being should be the driver of an effective training program. Why? Because they can, a computer program cannot.

For example, last week I was working with a group of trainers at a company that, until now, used CBT to train its forklift operators. They told me that they had had trainees take more than two days to “pass” the written test component of the program for which two hours was allotted by the manufacturer. I asked them why after 3 or 4 hours someone didn’t intervene and they told me that the program came with instructions that strictly forbade any “interference” from outside sources.

Apparently, when trainees answered test questions incorrectly, they were simply directed back to the text where the topic was covered and asked to repeat. In my view, that is no different than watching trainees do something operationally incorrect and asking them to continually repeat the task without the benefit of any training!

Through the process of trial and error, eventually the trainees did select the correct answers just as eventually, an infinite number of monkeys working with an infinite number of keyboards will produce a Shakespearean play. When I asked how confident they felt as trainers about the operators’ grasp of the topics.they just laughed.

There is no doubt that the computer age has introduced a lot of fabulous electronic training tools that competent trainers can use to spice up their programs and to enhance learning in their trainees but these tools are best used as aids and should never become the focal point As for those that argue that computers, unlike people, do not have off days I can only offer this – those people ought to spend a little time with my computer!

Rob Vetter
Director of Training
IVES Training Group

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