November 11, 2015

“Technology can be a boon to pedagogy, but it is not without its perils. Before jumping headlong into the rushing tide of PowerPoint presentations, consider these cautions and criticisms about this popular teaching tool: 1) It’s Inflexible . . . 2) It’s Risky . . . 3) It’s a Crutch . . . 4) It’s Boring . . . 5) It’s Style without Substance” (“THE PERILS OF POWERPOINT” by Thomas R. McDaniel, Converse College, and Kathryn N. McDaniel, Marietta College)

And, what’s even worse, it returns technology-learning back to the early days of personal computers when the limits of our pioneering analog programs confined us to the development of Computer Based Training (CBT).

Not too long ago I was invited to review several e-Learning courses marketed by a Midwestern training vendor.

This particular vendor has a large number of offerings targeted at many industries. And, their catalog describes their solutions as “skills training.”

As we shall soon see, that catalog description could not be further from the truth!

What I saw astonished me. It was like traveling backwards in a time capsule. Looking at those courses placed me back into the early and mid 1980s when technology training first came to a critical crossroad.

Back then, with the introduction of the Black Apple (followed quickly by the early videodisc players), the training world was all abuzz with the battle between CBT and IVD (interactive laser videodisc training).

For a year or two, CBT held a slight lead in the race but, shortly thereafter IVD became dominant and CBT died away (or, so I thought at the time).

Why? Because skills training is the antithesis of the memorization techniques incorporated in education and information conveyance — the only attribute that CBT offers — because CBT is primarily word- and stills-based.

Furthermore, for the majority of our labor force, words are generally not translated into learning. (Never forget that nearly 40% of our workforce does not assimilate anything written above a 4th grade reading level.)

It’s also worth noting the history of CBT which actually sprang as a look-alike for the slide show presentations many of us old guys witnessed in school before the emergence of computers.

And that slide-show evolution continues to this day — most unfortunately — with the adapted PowerPoint presentations that are dirtying up e-Learning as a valid training medium.

So, back to what I saw in those sample programs.

CBT it was! — with professional voice-over and beautiful graphics, plus lots and lots of words on each “slide.”

These programs will not train anyone. They may pass some information along to the trainee but that trainee will not be able to perform any of the skills discussed without additional “doing” exposure –- probably, hands-on.

What a waste of the buyer’s money! What a waste of employee time!

Do I believe that this new iteration of CBT will die away?

Of course it will!

But it will take a longer time to do so than it did in the 1980s because there are far too many do-it-yourselfers in training departments who, mistakenly, believe that they are capable of designing effective training while using one of those templated courseware authoring systems.

Why do the do-it-yourselfers try?


Or do they believe that templates work for all courseware designs, regardless of subject matter?

No e-Learning template can ever take the place of the creativity, originality, and appropriateness that truly constitutes effective skills training design.

I earnestly hope we can change this situation before too many skill sets begin to erode. CBT (and its lookalike, adapted PowerPoint e-Learning) is definitely not the answer — and, never has been!

More on Monday – – –

— Bill Walton, co-Founder, ITC Learning
www.itclearning.com/blog/ (Mondays & Wednesdays)


( This is a personal blog. Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner, jhbillwalton@gmail.com, an independent consultant. They do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in a professional or personal capacity, )