Computer Based Training (CBT) is NOT Bad For Your Safety Culture

Some authors and safety professionals would have you believe that using CBT for safety training will damage your organization’s safety culture.  These folks will tell you that CBT isolates workers and that it does not permit interaction like one would see in classroom training, and that it eliminates discussion and collaboration among employees.

First, I think it’s important that we understand what CBT is and what it is not. CBT is one of the tools we find in what is called Distance Learning (or also known as E-Learning).  Distance Learning uses other delivery formats as well, including instructor-led, web-delivered courses that can include a great deal of participant discussion and interaction. Even self-paced CBT or WBT can include a good deal of interaction and allow for discussion.  It’s all about how the training is designed. To use a blanket statement like “CBT is Bad For Your Safety Culture” does a great disservice to a tremendous learning tool and may steer employers away from something that can improve their safety culture, not destroy it.

When a training course is designed and developed properly, it will include the ability for participants to learn and share best practices and to get real questions answered about how the training can be applied in the workplace. CBT is only a lonely process when it is not developed properly or if it is meant to not include interaction between participants and between participants and instructor.

Some CBT courses are designed as performance support tools or to augment instructor-led classroom training before and/or after a live training event.  These types of CBT would not normally include ways for participants to interact with each other or the instructor (other than via an email link). CBT of this sort is designed to deliver the same type of information that might be delivered in a lecture format. But it is delivered at a much lower cost and with convenience for the participant. But it is not intended to be a stand-alone solution.

CBT was never meant to replace all classroom training. Some subjects require a significant amount of hands-on training and need to be delivered via classroom or lab training. But this does not mean that CBT can’t be effectively used to cover some of the details that would normally be covered in classroom lecture format.

Even OSHA sees the value in CBT to cover certain parts of a safety training course. When used judiciously, CBT can deliver lecture-type information before a student attends a classroom event and can also be used after the classroom course to reinforce learning. And when used with other Distance Learning tools, the training can be just as interactive with participants working together and asking questions as one might see in classroom training.

Proper use of CBT is a good decision for any organization. Designed properly, with good use of controls over testing and knowledge assessment, CBT is the right choice to augment your instructor-led classroom safety training courses.

Safety education occurs through use of policies, procedures, and manuals. It occurs in meetings, email notes, performance evaluations, casual conversations, and on-the-job demonstrations. There are lots of delivery methods we can and should use for safety training. CBT is one of them, and using it as part of the entire safety education program is not bad for your safety culture.

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4 Comments

Filed under Training

4 responses to “Computer Based Training (CBT) is NOT Bad For Your Safety Culture

  1. Kevin Cotterell

    Thanks for bring this topic up. I naively got involved in CBT (Micro Craft from memory) in the early 90’s and expanded a lot of energy learning to design and manage CBT.
    The resistance was absolute and it fall by the wayside like so much other technology.
    I’ve done several courses over the internet recently and some where terrible and some were excellent. The fact that it was done over the internet was not the problem.
    As a mature learner the venue is excellent for consolidating my knowledge and learning new stuff as well.

    • Kevin: Thanks for reading and commenting. CBT is a great tool when used correctly. I too have seen some awful CBT, and in my early days I created some bad stuff while I was learning. CBT is not for every subject or even for every learner. We just need to do a good analysis before deciding if and how we will use it.

  2. Les Henley

    Hi, I think the article, Kevin’s response and mikesummitsafety’s reply all point to the major problem – CBT in and of itself is neither good nor bad. It depends on how it is designed, how it fits into an overall training plan and program and how it’s outcomes are to be assessed.

    As in any industry, there are good and bad operators. Some classroom trainers, and/or classroom based courses are also bad – it depends very much on the context in which the course sits, and the skills of the trainer to understand how the course they are presenting fits into the bigger picture of the workplace.

    Unfortunately, I find (generally speaking) that managers want to minimise the various costs of training; and that of having several people off the floor to attend a classroom course is usually the highest single cost because of its impact on operations costs. In my experience at least, I find that many managers see CBT as a simple (cheap?) option to minimise employee time off the floor in classroom based training and they jump to rely on it alone as a solo training option. And then, when the CBT course doesn’t meet their expectations, CBT get bagged as a poor choice. In truth any type of work undertaken without a proper planning and execution is usually a poor choice.

    This problem is exacerbated by providers of such training who fail to identify the weaknesses of this approach, as well as the strengths – possibly due to their first priority being to generate an income from their primary activity – design, develop and deliver the CBT course.

    I for one find it refreshing that Mike has agreed that CBT is ONE tool that should be used within an arsenal of training tools and it’s purpose and limitations need to be understood in that framework.

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