graphic: Ergovera Logo
Why Ergovera?
Who Uses Ergovera
Stretch of the Month
Helpful Links
Contact Us
Ergovera's Ergo Savvy Newsletter )
 We help protect people, your company's most valuable asset May 2003 
In This Issue
The Pros and Cons of Computer Based Training
Research: Computer Based Training
New: Nutrition for Busy Folks
Credits and notices

Published by Ergovera Ergonomic Consulting to help you keep up on ergonomic innovations, so you can protect your employees and increase their productivity. Please pass it on to your colleagues and friends.

How does computer based training compare to a live instructor? How one can improve training and improve learning as much as possible? I have a long-standing interest in training and am currently exploring the latest research on these questions for my thesis. In addition, I'm developing some computer-based training tools to supplement the instructor-based training I do.

Little did I know, before I began to research this topic, that there are more learning theories than pointing devices! Some of them are very complicated, and I don't know how pertinent they are to the real world. The two most interesting and relevant studies to you as managers are long and very detailed. I will attempt to decipher only the most salient parts for you.

Computer-based training can be cost effective for companies. Research suggests that computer-based training generally reduces learning time by one third. Since time is money, this can be a substantial benefit. It also eliminates or decreases the costs associated with trainers. Intranet, Internet, email-based programs, and computer CD ROMs are all used in place of a live instructor.

In addition, computer-based training increases learner control. This sounds good in theory, since it makes it makes it easier to schedule time to do the training. Unfortunately, the research shows that employees working on their own without an instructor may choose to not finish computer-based training and may not spend adequate amounts of time with it. Age is also sometimes a factor in the efficacy of computer-based learning. Research has shown that older employees generally have less interests in and worse attitudes towards computers.

The first study I looked at used computer-based training without any instructor to teach a standardized problem-solving process. It looked extensively at individual differences, with the purpose of determining which employees are able to learn from computer- based training that allows for a high level of learner control. The other study compared "Adaptive Guidance" (which has an instructor give immediate feedback, as well as recommend sequencing and specific tasks for the individual to focus on) to feedback only ("Advisement") to evaluate which one will enhance computer-based learning. This study used a complex radar tracking simulation that required subjects to track targets. Overall, they found that adaptive guidance had a substantial effect on the nature of the trainees' study and practice, self-regulation, and performance and increased learning more than feedback ("advisement") alone. Both studies emphasized that the two most important principles associated with learning are 1) practice, and 2) time on task. Both looked at the effects of self-efficacy (the confidence learners have that they can learn the content of the course) as well as the learning choices people make (e.g., length of time on task). The researchers found that:

  • Learners increased their knowledge with computer-based training.
  • People with low self-efficacy practiced less then those with high levels of self-efficacy.
  • Age, education and computer experience were not strongly associated with learners' choices.
  • Adaptive guidance increased time spent on study by 25% and lead to greater learning than feedback ("advisement") alone.

As you develop trainings, look for ways to get learners to practice and study more. Having follow-up meetings to assess progress may be helpful. Consider the principles of adaptive guidance and use trainers in conjunction with computer-based training to guide employees towards the areas they are weakest on. You may want to evaluate your employees for individual differences, but based on these study results, that appears to be a difficult thing to do.

Have a safe day,

Deidre Rogers, RN, MS, CAE

A large American study (Bell & Kolowski) compared adaptive guidance, which utilizes feedback and recommends sequencing and specific tasks for individuals, to feedback alone (advisement). This study used 277 college students and utilized a radar-tracking simulation. The researchers used multiple choice questions and only tested the students at the end of the training (i.e., there was not retention testing done later). They looked at the effects of adaptive guidance on self-efficacy and were surprised to find that adaptive guidance only increased self-efficacy early on; it decreased later during the training trials. They hypothesized that by providing evaluative information about performance, adaptive guidance kept trainees from becoming overconfident in their skills and abilities later in training. Individuals who received adaptive guidance displayed higher levels of basic and strategic knowledge and were better able to transfer their skills to a more complex generalization trial.

Another American study (Brown) evaluated how individual differences affect learning when computer-based training is utilized. The study was performed at a Fortune 500 manufacturing firm and consisted of 78 technical employees. The training was strictly computer based (i.e., no live instructor), and the course material included quizzes with multiple choice and short answer questions. Extensive individual characteristics were measured to determine the employees' level of goal orientation. Goal orientation is a theory that describes differences among learners regarding: 1) task difficulty, 2) reasons for engaging in learning, and 3) beliefs regarding causes of success. It positions people into two main categories - ""high mastery-oriented" individuals and "high performance-oriented" individuals. People who fall into the first group believe they can improve their abilities and show increased persistence in the face of difficulty. High performance-oriented individuals believe their abilities are fixed and focus on demonstrating competence. The researcher found an unexpected negative relationship with practice level and post-test knowledge in the high mastery group.

The researcher looked at high and low self-efficacy traits in individuals and found that (as expected) individuals with low efficacy had shorter practice time than individuals with high levels of self-efficacy. They were surprised to find that age, education, and computer experience were not strongly associated with learner choices. They concluded that individual differences did not predict practice and time on task effectively.


Bell, B., & Kozlowski, S. (2002). Adaptive guidance: enhancing self-regulation, knowledge, and performance in technology-based training. Personnel Psychology, 55, (2), 267- 307.

Brown, K. (2001). Using computers to deliver training: which employees learn and why? Personnel Psychology, 54, (2), 271-297.

New training for companies that want their employees to have more energy and better overall health.

Ergovera will educate your employees on:

  • Understanding their own body type and nutritional needs.
  • Shopping and cooking tips for a high quality, nutritious diet that wont break the bank.
  • Latest research on nutrition, including what one needs to avoid, and protective nutrients that prevent disease and enhance overall health.

Call Deidre at 831.335.8448 or send her a message now for more info about the class, rates and dates we could do the workshop at your site.

Copyright © 2002, Deidre Rogers and Ergovera Ergonomic Consulting. All rights reserved. Reuse in any form must be requested and granted in writing.

  • Subscribe
  • Self-Care Poster

  • Stretch of the Month
  • About Ergovera

  •      email:
         voice: Phone 831.335.8448, Pacific time

    Privacy Policy

    Produced with the help of Constant Contact