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Web- and Computer-Based Training
A Field of Promise... and Peril

Web-based training... Computer-based training (CBT)... CD ROM-based training... Distance learning...

New learning technologies like these hold out the promise of inexpensive, convenient training that produces better results faster. Many clients - seeking ways to train employees on-demand, right where they work, and without the logistical complexities, away time, or travel costs associated with traditional classroom-based training are eager to explore the potential of self-study training delivered on-line, by video, or using CD ROM, diskettes or other electronic media.

Unfortunately, the much-touted cost efficiencies of web-based training and CBT often are substantially offset by program development costs. What's worse, the ostensible learning benefits especially where the focus is on interpersonal skills frequently turn out to be a mirage. Far too often, students find the computer-based materials boring, irrelevant, or both.

Think Training Can Help You Get the Best from the New Training Media

We have found that effective computer-based training shares a lot in common with effective classroom-based training. In fact, they both share the same two essential ingredients:
  • effective instructional design that focuses on the right skills and prompts lively interaction and thought... and...
  • materials and exercises that students find credible, realistic, and relevant because they are rooted in students' actual experience.
When these ingredients are combined with a practical command of the technology available to your employees, the result is computer-based training that offers indispensable advantages.

We can help you evaluate whether and when computer-based training is the best solution for you. And when you decide to go electronic, our team of training professionals will ensure that the computer-based programs or tools you develop are properly designed to give your employees the best possible training with maximum convenience and cost-savings.

Here are just a few examples of how we've helped clients realize the full potential of the new learning technologies:

Providing Electronic Job Aids and Reference Tools for Use On-the-Job

District Managers at this major auto company have at their disposal over 400 different reports about dealer performance that they can use to help retail dealers analyze and improve their performance. Unfortunately, these forms are hosted on several different computer systems, track a mind-boggling number of statistics and use a bewildering variety of codes and acronyms. As a result, most District Managers take years to learn their job, and they frequently never learn to use more than a few key reports well.

On a pilot basis, Think Training has designed a set of web-based tools designed to:
  • teach District Managers how to access the forms they need;
  • provide on-screen prompts to help DMs de-code obscure abbreviations; and,
  • guide DMs through interpretation of both sample data and their dealer's actual data in real time.
Our client expects that when the full system is up and running, District Managers will be able to learn the forms they need in a few months instead of five or more years.

Accelerating the Acquisition of Expertise

In the '90s, the telecommunications industry underwent profound and rapid changes as a result of developments in technology, market structure, and government regulation. To maintain their credibility with telecom accounts, our client's managers and senior account executives needed to understand how these changes were affecting their customers' business requirements, keep abreast of fast-breaking news, develop more effective sales strategies, and learn how others in their company were successfully meeting these same challenges.

Think Training developed a series of web-based, self-study training modules that allowed students to:
  • develop a conceptual map of the new telecom strategic landscape;
  • learn key industry jargon and technical terms;
  • understand the business challenges facing different kinds of telecom companies;
  • "eavesdrop" on the thinking of key telecom executives; and,
  • engage in lively off-line "conversations" and "debates" about sales strategy with their most successful colleagues.
The program's design preserved much of the give-and-take of classroom dialogue but took a fraction of the time. Students had easy access to tutorials on the history of the telecom industry and recent regulatory changes, and the programs offered convenient links to the websites of potential telecom customers and research resources.

Altogether, these modules provided rich sources of information and interaction that could never have been achieved using standard training methodologies.

Finding New Applications for Existing Training Materials

Our client, a leader in the commercial security industry, had tried numerous strategies to help its franchisees get new-hire sales representatives up to speed quickly. Over the years, the company had developed classroom-based training sessions, a sophisticated CD ROM program, any number of workbooks, and a wide variety of pamphlets and presentations... all designed to help new representatives quickly learn customers' security needs and the fundamentals of our client's products and operations.

The problem? While each of these efforts had strong points, they also had blind spots and weaknesses. None of them covered the full range of subjects needed, so over-stretched franchisees who wanted to provide a comprehensive orientation for their new-hires were forced to "mix and match." Not surprisingly, few franchisees found the time to organize such training on their own. But even those who tried found that the materials available to them were unreliable because they included information that now was obsolete.

Our client asked Think Training to help create an easy-to-update New Employee Orientation program on CD ROM that would weave all the most useful elements of their existing materials together. New-hires are given a series of assignments that draw on the company's existing resources. Afterward, they complete tests and/or practice applying what they've learned in actual or simulated customer situations. The result is a comprehensive three-month, programmed course of self-study completed on-site. New-hires work with their peers on a pre-set schedule, and all phases in their orientation are completed under their manager's supervision.

There were two additional benefits. First, since all the materials needed are on a single CD ROM, franchisees no longer have any trouble keeping track of the materials for new-hires to use; second, when updates are needed, the client can either send the new information over the Web, or simply distribute a new CD ROM.
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