Big Biz Rants...
OK, I Admit It – I’M BIASED!
So for my very first rant, I’m
going to get up on the soap box and shout loud and clear about something that is
VERY near and dear to a lot of trainer’s hearts.
ILT vs. CBT
For those of you in the training
business, you’ll recognize those acronyms right away. For those of you who
aren’t, they may look like another cryptic computer- related acronym – and
you’re right, it is. However those two 3-letter acronyms have been enough to
drive entire industries both for the good and the bad.
Warning: For those CBT advocates out there, I suggest you surf on to another
page because it’s going to get messy from here on out.
Instructor Lead Training vs. Computer Based Training
Now, now, I know what you’re
thinking . . . You’re probably thinking. “Gee, he’s an instructor; I’ll bet I
know which horse he is backing.” You’re right again. I have to admit that I make
my living by teaching and consulting and so do thousands of trainers out there working everyday
for companies like Microsoft, HP, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, Novell, Raytheon and other
Sure CBT’s have their place in
life and I don’t want to start out by bashing them right away <grin>. In fact, I
know plenty of courseware developers and instructional designers that make a
living off of CBT’s, and that’s all great and good. The good news is if you have
those kinds of skills, CBT’s aren’t going anywhere and I really do believe that
more and more training will continue to gravitate towards the CBT world.
The bad news is there is NO WAY
for a CBT to replace critical parts of the learning experience that only ILT can
give you. For instance, getting AWAY from the office – not just for the sake of
getting away, but for the sake of being dedicated to the task of learning
without distractions. For instance, interacting not only with the instructor but
with your peers and colleagues. The ability to ask a question right when you
think about it. Maybe I’m just getting up there in years, but if I have to wait
till the end of a CBT module to submit an email and ask a question, well, I’ve
already forgotten it!
I’m sure some of you are getting
ready to say, “Hey, Big Biz, you have heard about that little pause button in a
lot of CBT’s? We can always write down our questions.” Tell that to your average
techie who hates documentation. Documentation is a necessary evil in the IT
business and if I have to stop what I’m doing to write down a question, which
probably won’t mean the same to me when I get to the end of a CBT, it’s almost
not worth it to me.
And let’s just forget about all
the technical pro’s and con’s for a minute, I’d like to point to the end
result. When you come out of an ILT lead class vs. a CBT run course, how do you
feel? What do you know? How much have you retained? The experiences are totally
different. Let me take one example of a hardware company that I know of: They
shall remain nameless to protect the innocent ;-) but I know of a growing trend
in this particular hardware company to do away with critical hardware-oriented
ILT classes and shift everything over to CBT’s.
I’m sorry, but if you were a tech
who showed up on my doorstep to work on some gear, and you proclaimed that you
never even saw or touched the product but you did take a “refresher course” or
CBT on how to disassemble, repair and re-assemble…I’d tell you to hit the
bricks. OK, maybe if I was in a good mood, I’d tell you to have at it and then
I’d sweat bullets, wondering if you could actually fix the gear correctly.
I think we all know of some
rookies who have ran through CBT’s, studied some books, took some tests, got
some certifications and can’t even spell IP, let alone troubleshoot a network
And that’s going to be the focus
of another rant in the next few months. It relates to this one though, in an
effort to cut back on expenses -- and we all know that training is typically the
first to get cut -- and migrate towards CBT’s, I really think we are trashing
the quality and level of expertise that we expect in anyone who is in this
CBT’s do work – and I really do
think they have their place in life. A good example would be the IT veteran,
who has a good foundational set of skills, has already worked with similar
hardware or software, and can apply his or her background to what they learn in
CBT’s are also a great alternative
if you can’t get your company to send you to ILT classes because after all any
training is better than no training at all.
But we’re losing sight of what it
takes to transfer knowledge to a good percentage of American working adults
these days. I forget which famous director said this, it was either George Lucas
or Steven Spielberg (I think it was George Lucas, didn’t he come up with
THX?) He said, “If I cut the sound out of a picture, and all you have is what is
on the screen, the chances of you figuring out the movie are very slim.”
Then he said, “However, if I cut
out the picture, and all you have to go on is the sound, most people can get
through a whole movie - and yes, there is no picture, but you understand the
finish and you know what was going on.” He said that in a quote about why he
backed the THX sound system used in many home entertainment systems and movie
theaters around the world.
I think the same applies for
training: A CBT can only get you so far – ILT will give you much more. Think of
it as a race, CBT does can get you halfway there; ILT classes will get you 100%
Now are there bad classes? Yep.
Are there terrible trainers? Oh, yeah! Are there times when books are wrong, lab
steps blow up or things go bump in the night? Definitely! There has been and
always will be things that can and will go wrong.
However, that is inherit with
anything. An ILT class can give you so much more out of your training
experience. Yes, they are expensive. Yes, it requires time out of the office to
get training, but I can’t help but think that centuries of instructor lead
classes from K-12, college and post graduate schools are wrong.
If CBT’s are so great, why aren’t
they replacing more schools and colleges around the country? I’ll tell you a
good reason why, because they CAN’T replace the value of learning from someone
who has already been down that road and can relate experiences or stories, and
try to drive point’s home two or three different ways.
So you might say, “Yeah, but what
if I don’t understand a topic that the instructor is explaining?” Many
instructors that I know will gladly let someone else explain a topic, in the
event that maybe they aren’t relating well to explaining something properly. I
can tell you that I’ve got many students I see who know their stuff and are very
good at what they do, so if they can help a fellow student out and explain a
topic in maybe a different way than I can, I say go for it. Try getting
that out of a CBT!!!
I’ve been around the training
business since 1997 and I’m only an 15-year veteran of the training business, but
my techie days go all the way back to the Commodore 64, and that’s well over 20
years of experience. Just ask anyone who has been around the techie business for
20, 30, 40 or more years and they will be happy to tell you how it was in the
good ole days,
I know some guys who were not
allowed to step foot on site at a customer location unless they spent 3 – 6
weeks training in a rigorous environment (if you ever worked for IBM back in the
day, you’ll know what I’m talking about), and up till 2001, the training
business was totally different.
I don’t think 9/11 totally trashed
the business but it had a profound effect on it. Between that and the dot com
bust, I’ve seen classes dwindle from 12 – 14 students, down to 10, 8, and 4.
That’s going to be another rant of mine in the future, some of our courseware
developers NEED to understand that the business is different these days, and the
standard 8-5 classroom routine just ain't cutting it when you have low student
Anyway, I think I’ve ranted enough
for my first rant. Come back next month and if you have a rant you’d like me to
go off on, shoot me an email and let me know.
Take care and I’ll see you next