Web-Based Training

Web-Based Training (WBT) is a classical form of e-learning.

Area of application

Web-Based Training (WBT) is a classical form of e-learning. In a WBT, interactive and multimedia content is combined in pre-structured series of lessons also sometimes called modules, units, or chapters, among others which the learner covers one by one. 

For example, a WBT could start with a video. Then the navigation bar takes the participant toan interactive exercise. A WBT can offer a variety of types of exercises, such as multiple choice, drag & drop, self-reflection, and many more. Browsing to the next page, the participant could be offered some text and an image, and so on.

Sometimes a WBT provides additional features like a glossary, bookmarks or notes. This depends on the design and the software (authoring tool) that was used to implement it.

Developing a WBT is a strategic decision as it is a resource-intensive activity. However, in the long run, it can save much more resources than the amount spent on its development. Once available, a WBT can be used unlimited number of times for a large target group. The more people participate in the WBT, the higher the return on investment. Therefore, WBT are suitable to train large target groups on relatively fixed subjects. WBT is not suitable for small target groups as that would not be efficient. It is also not suitable for subjects that change often, as the updating of WBT requires some work.

Interaction

Interaction in the context of a WBT mostly means “interactivity”, i.e. there are programmed reactions to a specific user input. For example, WBT can contain various interactive elements such as games, exercises, quiz taking or simulations. 

Once published on a learning platform, a WBT can be combined with communication tools, such as forums and discussion boards, where participants can interact with each other. Additionally, a WBT can be “tutor-guided”, i.e. a facilitator can engage with the users to, for example, set the learning pace or provide technical and content support. However, all of this is optional.

Virtual mode

Web-Based Trainings are virtual trainings. They have been in use since the beginning of the internet in the mid-1990s, and are nowadays a regular element of adult education in companies, universities and other institutions. The trend has intensified during the coronavirus pandemic, as traditional face-to-face trainings are replaced with a virtual input of this kind, possibly in combination with live events (see "Blended learning"). It is commonly expected that this trend will remain after the pandemic subsides as it has proven to be efficient and practical, despite the initial effort and investment.

METHODS

WBT can be used as stand-alone learning material, i.e. participants work on the course on their own and set their own pace. For that, the WBT is simply made available online (or distributed otherwise), and it is left up to the user whether, when and how he or she works on the WBT. However, this can be quite a challenge for the learners.

To address this challenge, online facilitationhas proven to be helpful. A facilitator accompanies learners on their e-learning journey, supporting them in organizational, content-related, motivational, and technical matters. Click here to learn more about online facilitation, in specific, or about asynchronous collaboration, in general.

A promising and sustainable way to use WBT is to make it a part of a larger training programme. For example, it can be combined with additional virtual or face-to-face events like group meetings, online seminars or workshops. Sometimes this is referred to as Blended Learning even though some might argue that Blended Learning always implies face-to-face elements. Combining WBT with live events can be very beneficial. Through WBT, participants can prepare for a live event in advance so that all of them come with a comparable level of prior knowledge. This saves a lot of time in the live event, so that potentially “boring” parts like presentations or other types of one-way input can be skipped in favor of more interesting and lively activities like group collaboration, discussions and possibly some games.

PRACTICAL TIPS

Non-accompanied WBT often have high drop-out rates as participants lose motivation or lack self-discipline to complete the training. To prevent losing participants, the use of a facilitator, who provides motivational, organizational, content and technical support, might be considered. Another option is to build in positive reinforcement (e.g. rewards for completion of modules) or negative reinforcement (penalties such as disinvitation from a workshop). However, negative reinforcement is usually not recommended.

The use of narration or voiceover makes comprehension of the material easier for the user and allows for other media (rather than text) to be used on the screen. However, it makes changes or updates to the WBT more costly and difficult to undertake.

The cooperation between the subject matter expert and the instructional designer is critical for the success of the WBT development. In the ideal case, these two roles can be performed by one person. However, this is rarely the case and therefore, it is highly recommended these two roles should collaborate and communicate closely and directly, especially in the beginning of the project. For example, a kickoff meeting should be organized between the two to discuss the expected outcomes, the precise learning objectives, the content scope and available resources such as already existing materials, experiences from previous (face-to-face) trainings, and the time schedule.

To avoid misunderstandings during implementation ensure the development of a clear and comprehensible storyboard.

It is very helpful if at least the instructional designer is familiar with the technical possibilities of the authoring tool which will be used for implementation so that the full potential of the authoring tool can be used, and, to avoid including interactive elements in the storyboard that cannot easily be implemented. Therefore, the authoring tool should be selected and made known to team members early in the process.

Resources

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TIME

Depending on the WBT length, design, and degree of interaction, as well as on the experience and availability of the production team, the development of a WBT can take between several weeks up to several months. Producing a WBT within three months is feasible, but ambitious.

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BUDGET

The required budget mainly depends on the daily rates of the persons involved (see “Human Resources”) and the time they invest in development. The purchase of media (mostly images) might be needed but this is usually not a major cost in the budget. Another expense are licenses for the use of commercial authoring tools, if such are used. However, usually the technical implementation of a WBT is outsourced, with the external company being responsible to provide the authoring tool. Therefore, such license fees will be included in their offer.

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TOOLS AND TECHNICAL ASPECTS

From a user’s perspective, there are no special technical requirements that need to be fulfilled. WBT participants need a link to access the WBT, a device with an up-to-date browser, and fast and stable internet connection.
For the production and provision of a WBT, two tools play a major role: the authoring tool and the learning management system (LMS).

The authoring tool is the software used to produce a WBT. There are commercial authoring tools, with the most common currently being Adobe Captivate and the tools made by Articulate. They allow creating WBT in a professional and flexible way, but some prior experience is required to use them. There are also open-source tools like Xerte or H5P, which are free and often have a more intuitive user interface, but do not offer the same variety of options concerning design and interactivity. As WBT uses several types of media, technical aspects also cover the editing of images, audio and video files, but that is normally left to the service provider. The authoring tool provides the possibility to export the final WBT in different formats, e.g. as SCORM package to be imported to an LMS, as HTML files to be included in a website, or to be saved on a computer hard disc or an external storage like a stick.

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HUMAN RESOURCES

In addition to the project manager, the following roles are involved in the development of a WBT:

  • Subject matter expert: provides the technical expertise for the training content;
  • Instructional designer: provides the “e-learning knowhow”, i.e. designs content in a way that considers pedagogy and technical possibilities;
  • “Programmer”: implements the WBT using an authoring tool;
  • Media developer: creates media like images, audio, and video. There might be different specialized developers for different kinds of media.
  • Professional speaker: records the narration in a studio, if the WBT is designed to have voice-over;
  • Facilitator (optional): accompanies users through the WBT by providing organizational, content and technical support and motivation. This role relates not to the development of the WBT but to its application afterwards.

REFERENCE PERSON

Heike Koch

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