As much as I try to keep my blogs positive, I think I am entitled to a periodic rant once in a while. Today’s frustration is on the poor quality of what most online learning companies try to pass off as “computer-based training (CBT).”
I did a CCNA (Cisco-Certified Network Associate) self-study using CBT 10 years ago that was absolutely awesome. When I look at most of the CCNA self-study courses available today, they do not come close to the one I took a decade ago. It is amazing that there are not more high-quality CBT programs for technology folks. While I understand that having an “expert” teaching in front of a whiteboard is the cheapest way to create CBT, the opportunity to massively increase the productivity of learning is totally missed by this approach.
Ironically, the CBTs created by Sal Kahn to teach children mathematics is better than most online CBT programs for telecom professionals. If you are not familiar with kahnacademy.org, it all started in 2004. Sal Kahn was working at a hedge fund in Boston and wanted to help his cousin, Nadia, with her math homework. Since Nadia was in New Orleans, Sal started tutoring her via telephone and Yahoo Doodle after work. As Nadia improved in math class, Sal began tutoring her brothers, Arman and Ali. Eventually, word got around and he was tutoring a handful of his cousins and family members. Scheduling became a real issue and Sal started recording videos and posting them on YouTube in 2006 so everyone could watch on their own. Now, the videos are fully integrated with rich CBT technology to make math fun, engaging, and accessible to children all over the world.
To Sal’s credit, what started out as videos became fully integrated with the richest set of CBT tools anywhere, making the experience truly interactive and engaging. Unfortunately, most CBT available for technologists stops at posting an online video. To me, that is like having a computer-synthesized voice read you your email. To spend 60 seconds listening to an email that you could scan and dispose of in 10 seconds is of little value sitting at your desk. What is needed are CBT tools that are more like Sprint’s voicemail-to-text feature. A 60-second voicemail can be scanned in 10 seconds; that’s productive.
Our technologists in the enterprise today need on-demand, quick CBT that can be used both for initial training and refreshers as they tackle new assignments and projects. A new paradigm is needed for online education in the Web 2.0 era. I fear the gap that exists today may be one of the biggest barriers for enterprises as we try to accelerate business processes through the use of technology.