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Online Learning News – 23 November issue


A news and idea service of Bill Communications Inc. (Lakewood)
Tuesday, Nov. 23, 1999 Vol. 2, No. 35

Register for TRAINING 2000 in Atlanta at


1. Good CBT: 'Like touching a hot iron'
2. What online learning CAN'T do
3. Laptop as loungewear ...
4. ... But is price the issue?
5. Cries for help: Completion rates?
6. Window shopping: A learning-portal portal



Do learners remember material better when they learn it online?
Or in a classroom?

Travis Piper ([email protected]), says studies at insurer Aetna
and aircraft maker McDonnell Douglas showed test scores 5% higher
with computer-based training than with classroom instruction.

Piper, president of CBT developer Creative Approaches Inc. of
East Bloomfield, NY, says at McDonnell Douglas the 5%
differential held up 90 days later.

Why is online better? Because learners must keep clicking until
they get it. "The design of the CBT can guarantee mastery of
every teaching point," says Piper, "where the classroom cannot."

"In my 25-plus years in this industry, the reasons I most hear
cited for the improved retention is that the feedback is
immediate and personalized -- much like touching a hot iron.

"If the instructor tells the class not to touch it, it's not
personalized and immediate."

But, Piper adds, the two paramount considerations in retention
are management buy-in and the design.

Other reasons to justify CBT costs, says Piper, are at is site:


But an instructor adds what no CBT can, counters Lynn Wood
([email protected]), information-technology trainer with
oil-pipeline maker CSOL in Aberdeen, UK.

Wood says that "look, listen, and do is the best way to learn.
That is, watching someone demonstrate and discuss, then do whilst
watching trainer do at the same time."

Computer-based training can do that, Wood concedes -- but a
live instructor does it better, adding layers of explanation
and analogy as needed.

"Only an instructor, watching how the class reacts, can pick
up if attendees have not understood, or have half-understood,"
says Wood. "A CBT cannot do this -- neither can Web-based
training. They are two-dimensional. Instructor-led is three- or


Finally, to compare training-delivery methods, Jon Radue
([email protected]), associate professor and chair of the
computer-science department at Brock University in St.
Catharines, Ontario, suggests the No Significant Differences

It in turn has a companion site:



Laptop advocates argue that the price gap between laptops and
deskstops has all but vanished, given claims of greater
productivity from laptops.

We've asked what you think about that. Here are two more

A dreamy Paul F Troyke ([email protected]), mostly a
desktop user, says: "As someone who does a lot of presentation
development, documentation review, and class preparation, I would
much rather have a laptop I could take home with me."

"As it is," adds Troyke, information-technology trainer with
investment broker A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. in St. Louis, "my
workday is full of meetings, interruptions and distractions.

"Being able to work on that presentation while sprawled out on
the couch, rehearsing a presentation in the privacy of my living
room with the use of my presentation, or a little light reading
on the latest mainframe to client-server migration just before
bed would be ideal."

"Not to mention," Troyke concludes, "the ease at which I could
dial up the home office if I needed something from a server or to
check my always-full in-box would make life a whole lot easier."



Is value rather than price the key issue in the laptop-vs.
desktop debate?

Yes, says William B. Sanders ([email protected]), a
sociologist teaching technology at the University of Hartford
(CT). "I think the value of your computer," says Sanders,
"largely depends on what you do, not just a dollar price on the

"For my kind of work," says Sanders, "I like desktops." Here's

o Convenience. "It is inconvenient for me to carry one

o Larger screen (17-inch).

o "Big, fat keyboard."

o Connected -- "Always connected to a T1, Zip drive,
scanner and printer."

o Mouse vs. touchpad -- "I like the mouse," says Sanders.

"However," Sanders adds, "were I traveling a lot in my work as
professor or student, I'd opt for a laptop. Also, laptops are
better when you have to take a computer to class for a

"So," concludes Sanders, "while I agree that the price difference
is narrowing, I don't think that is a major factor in choice any



Your reaction to the notion of mining e-mail for know-how is

We asked whether software that organizes information corporate e-
mail would be a useful knowledge-management tool -- or would it
chill exchanges as e-mail users fell silent, knowing they're
being listened to ("'Mining' e-mail: Chill factor?," Nov. 9).

Mark Flamendorf ([email protected]), a trainer with Johnson
& Johnson Health Care Systems in Piscataway, NJ, thinks mining e-
mail for know-how would be counterproductive.

His company doesn't do this at present, says Flamendorf, and he
hopes it won't. "It will keep people from sharing since knowing
their comments will be monitored is an inhibiting factor," he

John Musgrove ([email protected]), a trainer and project
estimator for data and software, for Bechtel Corp. in Houston,
thinks e-mail isn't a promising source for corporate smarts.

"I think there is so much trivia and ordinary knowledge in e-
mail, says Musgrove, "that the whole exercise would be a waste of

How do you promote interchange of information and ideas? "Foster
an environment and culture that values sharing," says J&J's
Flamendorf. "Create formal cyber-environments, both synchronous
and asynchronous, where employees can go to chat when they want
to share. Use collaborative software to facilitate sharing."



Can you help? Please e-mail [email protected] with your
idea. Please use the correct subject line, e.g. Completion Rates?

Please include your name, title, organization, where it is,
and what it does. Please also include a phone number at which
we can reach you to confirm information.

No attachments, please. But include a Web-site address if it
will be instructive for readers.


"Relevant to the discussion on low student completion rates
in self-paced training, does anyone have a good reference
that lists completion-rate statistics? In my group, which
handles technical training for a widespread sales force, we
are trying to prepare an argument for a combination of
synchronous and asynchronous learning, and need the hard data
as back-up. Thanks for any help."

OLL NEWS SAYS: The reader refers to our coverage of your
ideas about getting learners to finish their online modules
("Why Online Learners Quit," Sept. 29). Web-based training
developer Eric Parks of Fair Oaks, CA, says the quit-early
rate is as high as 50%.

Parks will lead a session on Feb. 23 at TRAINING 2000 in
Atlanta. His subject: "Why Online Learners Drop Out." You can
register for the show at


PORTAL MANIA. Consultant Brandon Hall of Sunnyvale, CA,
offers this guide to the plethora of learning portals. Hall's
presentation at TRAINING 2000 (
Feb. 21 in Atlanta is "Best Practices in Multimedia and
Internet Training."


Ooops! Our goof. A production delay resulted in readers receiving
OnLine Learning News late last week. We apologize.

Up next: TRAINING 2000 with Nobelist Desmond Tutu, MIT's Nicholas
Negroponte, anthropologist Jennifer James, Fortune's Tom Stewart
and TV's Ben Stein. Register at

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Copyright 1999
Bill Communications Inc.


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