Classroom vs. Computer Based Training

The author was asked to compare classroom and computer based training to be used to modify behavior for a traffic court. This was motor vehicle related training for drivers that lost their driver’s license and were attending court appointed training as one means of getting their driver’s license reinstated. The courts were investigating the potential for cost savings of drivers going online and completing the training instead of attending four-hours of face-to-face classroom training. The author taught the old Defensive Driving Course face-to-face in the 1980s for over three-years and in the 2000s served on the acquisition team reviewing bids for an online computer based version of a defensive driving course. He also taught the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s rider safety courses face-to-face for over two years.

Classroom training, although normally more expensive because of the classroom, provides a better learning environment that supports the student and allows for security to ensure that the offender actually takes the training instead of an imposter. The cost of a classroom can be reduced considerably by using facilities that already exist and used for other purposes.

Classroom training provides an opportunity for students to ask the trainer questions on the topics as they come up. It also provides an opportunity for students to hear answers from questions asked by other students. Students can work in groups that allow for ideas and thoughts to transfer from fellow students, which can facilitate the learning since they come from peers. Students can also speak with the trainer during breaks to address issues they feel uncomfortable speaking about in a class. Classroom training makes good use of sensory learning methods of: seeing, hearing and doing. Accountability is present because the student is actually in class and his or her identity can be checked. Finally classroom training adapts to all students with or without computer training or access to a computer.

Computer based training provides an opportunity for students to ask the trainer questions through e-mail. This method also provides an opportunity for students to read answers from questions asked by other students through chat rooms. Students can work in groups that allow for ideas and thoughts to transfer from fellow students, which can facilitate the learning since they come from peers using chat room and e-mail strings. Students can e-mail the trainer at any time to address issues. This method makes good use of sensory learning methods of: seeing, hearing, and doing. This method also adapts to students with access to a computer as well as computer training or experience.

Classroom training, although normally more expensive because of the classroom, provides a better learning environment that supports the student and allows for the security of ensuring that the offender actually taking the training. The cost of a classroom is normally reduced by using facilities that already exist.

If the students were allowed to complete the training at home on a computer there is a question of validating who the student actually is.  Many offenders may not have access to a computer. This would put them at a disadvantage to those having a computer. To exacerbate this issue some libraries that could provide computer access are reducing hours. There is also a question of computer literacy among the disadvantaged that would come into play with computer based training.  If a center was provided that verified the student’s actual identity the costs would be similar to classroom based training.

The idea of training that uses three sensory modes is also very important and should not be underestimated. This supports the learning theory that adults prefer to work through information and get physically involved. It is important to know that adults retain 20% of what they read, 30% of what they hear, 40% of what they see, 50% of what they say, 60% of what they do, and a whopping 90% of what they see, hear, say, and do (Copeland, 2003). Compare that to the fact that one year after training the average adult only retains 10-15% of what he or she learned. Given the dramatic loss of information it seems obvious that a trainer must use the method that gives the best retention, which is to provide the student with learning that allows the student to see, hear, say, and do.

In this essay the author outlined information he gathered from comparing classroom and computer based training to modify behavior for court required training. Through his own experiences, information from adult learning, and an overview of each type of training mode the author determined that classroom training was more appropriate to this situation. The disadvantage of computer access was also considered. The author determined that classroom training, although normally more expensive because of the classroom, provides a better learning environment that supports the student and allows for the security to ensure that the offender is actually taking the training. The cost of a classroom can be reduced by using facilities that already exist.

This is not the end of the story and much more work needs to be done to evaluate and determine the best mix of classroom versus computer based training specially with trainers talking about providing training via iPod or MP3 players.

Bibliography
– Copeland, Laura, “Training that Rocks”, Proceedings of the 2003 ASSE Professional Development Conference, 2003, Des Plaines, IL, USA.

About Fred Fanning Author

Fred Fanning spent over 20 years in the safety profession. His final safety position was as the Director of Occupational Safety and Health for the U.S. Department of Commerce. He began writing in 1994, published his first book in 1998, and began writing professionally in 2015. He has authored and coauthored articles, written books, and chapters for technical books and stories for anthologies.
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