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September 06, 2005
Getting Started with Web-Based Training

Why should you consider WBT? Web-based Training (WBT) is a form of computer-based training that provides instruction over an Internet or intranet site. WBT enthusiasts like it because it allows employees to learn at their own pace, fit training more flexibly into their work schedules, and go back and review material until they understand it. It also can allow for real-time interaction with an instructor or other learners via chat rooms or discussion boards. Safety training with WBT may fit well into your organization if:

  • There is a relatively large number of employees who require the same kind of training on an ongoing basis.
  • Employees to be trained are spread out geographically and cannot conveniently attend classroom training sessions.
  • Your organization either has sufficient Information Technology (IT) resources to help create and maintain WBT programs in-house or has the budget to pay for an outside firm to set them up and maintain them.

Go "low tech" to achieve "high tech." So your organization seems ready to plunge into WBT ... now what? The good news is, you don't have to be an IT genius (or even understand how websites work) to be a website developer. In fact, some WBT experts advocate a low-tech approach to program development—literally figuring it out with a pencil and sheets of paper. You can "storyboard" the training program you want to create by drawing boxes to represent Web pages and sketching in the main ideas for each, showing the overall flow with lines and arrows. While this approach might require a lot of effort, working out the program yourself means you can stay in control of the overall training message—and it also will help guide the IT specialists who can translate your ideas into Web-based reality.

Know your goals ... and your limitations. WBT can be a great training tool, but only if it's focused on the needs and capabilities of the audience.

Why It Matters...
  • Many companies have reported that using WBT has resulted in lower training costs, sometimes by millions of dollars for large organizations.
  • Surveys of trainees who used WBT show higher satisfaction with training and better retention of material.
  • The human brain needs to "rest" every 5 minutes or so when taking in information. WBT accommodates this need by allowing self-paced learning.

Experts advise that if you're developing a WBT program, keep these tips in mind:

  • Define your training goals and make sure the end result of your program achieves them.
  • Keep each page of information simple; use pages as "building blocks" that support the overall concept you want to convey.
  • By all means use graphics and animation but don't overdo it to the point of distraction.
  • Having several miniquizzes interspersed through the program is generally better than having one long quiz at the end.
  • Take into account the physical limitations of your users' computers—if they are several years old, downloading complex pages may take too long and be frustrating and annoying to users.
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