CBT Styles
an essay by
Delano P Wegener, Ph.D.
Computer Based Training (CBT) can be designed and delivered in just about any style we can imagine. The following description of five styles is not intended to be comprehensive, but merely to indicated some of the possibilities available to anyone contemplating a CBT system. Nor are the descriptions intended to be complete, but simply an indication of what one might expect from each of the styles.

The following list of CBT styles is arranged from the simplest to the most complex. This order also reflects teaching effectiveness, effective use of the medium, and cost of production.

Style 1. A simple "page turning" copy of text:
This CBT style usually includes a few sketches or photographs but no other media is included. Student interaction is limited to "turning the page". The student is a passive participant in the teaching/learning process. This is a common CBT style but it has very little teaching value and certainly does not use the medium.

Style 2. A simple "page turning" copy of text with glossary:
This style is obtained by appending a glossary of terms to Style 1. Each first occurrence of a glossary term in a page of text is marked as hypertext. Clicking on a hypertext word presents its definition in a popup window or a static space reserved for definitions. Some informal studies have indicated that students are more likely to use this form of dictionary than a printed dictionary. If these studies are valid, learning should be faster and more precise than in Style 1.

Style 3. A simple "page turning" copy of text with glossary and other hyperlinks:
Possible hyperlinks would permit the student to "jump" from one location in the text to another location in the text, from a location in the text to a sketch which occurs elsewhere in the text, or from a sketch (or part of a sketch) to a location in the text.

This form of hyperlink does have some significant teaching value. First, it permits the student to very easily "look up" a previously studied concept when it is referenced in the text. Secondly, these hyperlinks make the text behave much like WWW documents.

The fact that many students are comfortable with the WWW and the fact that many students prefer to learn, and learn best, when information is presented in small packets (sound bites are preferred over complete analysis) makes this a better learning environment for many students. The developer must insure that the student is exposed to enough packets of information to achieve the desired level of comprehension.

This CBT style presents more options for interaction than Styles 1 or 2. The student is therefore a more active participant in the teaching/learning process.

Style 4. Multimedia CBT:
Multimedia CBT consists of all the features of Style 3 together with all appropriate multimedia. Multimedia may include any (or all) of the following:

  • photographs
  • video
  • sound
  • animation
  • "hands-on" simulations

When multimedia is high quality, carefully selected, and carefully created, this CBT style is an extremely useful teaching tool. It is important that all media be carefully chosen for its educational value. Media for the sake of media can become irritating to a student and is then counterproductive.

Some of the factors which make this a very effective teaching tool are:

  • Several learning channels (visual, auditory, tactile) are used,
  • Individual learning preferences are respected,
  • Active participation in the teaching/learning process is maximized,
  • Concepts are presented in their best form,
    • Motion or action is shown in video or animation,
    • Sound is presented as sound,
    • Assembly or construction is shown as video or animation and practiced with hands-on simulations.
  • Presentation satisfies student expectations

Style 5. Multimedia CBT implementation of the Mastery Based Learning Model:
The Mastery Based Learning Model is a most effective teaching model and CBT implementation is the only cost effective implementation of the model. A CBT implementation of the Mastery Based Learning Model utilizes the presentation medium to its maximum benefit. A CBT implementation of the Mastery Based Learning Model is costly to produce.

A description of the Mastery Based Learning Model is long and somewhat technical. The Mastery Based Learning Model has been well tested and proven. I will provide a description and a discussion of related research upon request.