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November 29, 2004
Is CBT Training Right for New Hires?

Computer-Based Training (CBT) is like any other tool. When used correctly, CBT can be a great resource, but not if it's used ineffectively or doesn't help meet your objectives. This is especially true for training newly hired employees—CBT can be very helpful, but only when you can leverage its strengths and avoid its weaknesses. The major strength of CBT is that it is self-paced—learners can move quickly through material they already know, but they can also go back over information that is unfamiliar or difficult without affecting the pace of an entire group. This attribute of CBT is particularly useful for integrating a new hire into a group of more experienced employees, because it can provide a foundation of basic knowledge to build on later through more advanced training and actual experience.

Recognize CBT's limitations and plan accordingly. CBT can't offer face-to-face interaction, hands-on demonstrations, answers for questions outside its program, or insights into a company's unique "safety culture." For this reason, you would not want to tell new hires to review a computerized training program and think that you've provided all the training they need. You shouldn't also assume they will understand and be able to use the information—you need a way to measure their comprehension. Look for CBT programs that have built-in quizzes, or follow up with separate quizzes related to the material that has been covered.

Why It Matters...
  • A Hudson Institute study showed that "multimedia" CBT that combines text, graphics, sound, and video/animation improves retention by 40 percent.
  • The same study showed that CBT can also save as much as 30 percent of training time.
  • Good CBT programs can help you meet OSHA training requirements for both new and experienced employees more efficiently.

Make the most of what CBT offers for new hires. Some guidelines and suggestions to keep in mind include the following:

  • Review CBT programs before assigning them, decide if some of the information they contain is incomplete or unclear, and provide supplemental information and training as necessary.
  • Make CBT a starting point for training, but not necessarily the end point. Follow up a CBT course with some form of "live" training such as Q and A or demonstrations.
  • If possible, have new hires and more experienced employees review CBT material together. For example, some CBT programs may be suitable both for beginner training and for refresher training, allowing newcomers and veterans to interact while each person gets the training he or she needs.
  • Measure, verify, confirm. Using quizzes or other means, do whatever it takes to make sure new hires actually understand the information you provide.
  • Don't forget to keep complete records of CBT training for each employee.
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