Computer-based training has received the big thumbs up from the business community and is gaining in sophistication and moving out into new areas.
CBT has long been seen as a cost-saving alternative to "chalk and talk" training methods, with less downtime as staff can integrate their training into their normal work day and work routine. The need for trained trainers is also reduced, not to mention the cost of venues, meals, transport and so forth sometimes required for traditional training methods.
While CBT is already established in training computer and system users, use of the method is now spreading into the behavioural and customer support areas.
"There is a whole move afoot in training to look at skills-based training or training that deals with performance," says Becky Blackshaw, of Auckland-based training systems developers MultiDoc Systems.
"It's much more targeted. Delivering up-front training is hideously expensive. It not only takes people away from their work, but you may be targeting people who only need a small percentage of what you are offering.
"What seems to be happening is that people are focusing on skills--it may be through hiring, a technical job-aid or it may be that there is a whole lot of training that we can deliver online that people can take as and when they need it and only the modules and units they need.
"This sort of thing slots in with the New Zealand Qualifications Authority framework as well."
Blackshaw, who has been involved in development projects for Telecom and IBM, sees intranets as offering a new infrastructure for training delivery.
"The bulk of the work I did last year was mainly in delivering online systems. It's beginning to really happen."
Australia-based human resource consultancy DDI Asia Pacific has been offering an interview training course called Targeted Selection for some years but has recently released the course in a multimedia version, the first in a series of multimedia products planned in what it calls its Personal Interactive Learning series. Further titles in the series are planned covering leadership training and service provision.
The CD-ROM-based Targeted Selection course includes audio, video, interactive exercises and simulations, and DDI claims it will produce a 25-50% time saving and 40% cost-saving over the classroom version of the course.
Classroom-based training aimed at improving interpersonal skills relies heavily on role-playing and feedback, but DDI claims to have replicated this through the use of video examples of true-to-life situations and skill demonstrations combined with either on-the-job, class-based or telephone contact with trainers.
"There is still a requirement for people to practice skills and receive coaching and feedback," says DDI's managing consultant Lynda Carroll. "It's not a programme you can complete just in front of your screen.
"They can go through all the cognitive, theoretical knowledge through the CD-ROM and then, rather than go into the classroom, they do their skill practice on the job.
"You can do it just-in-time and you train people as coaches to coach the individual through. The reason why that is not part of the self-study is that if you want to actually change people's behaviour and build their skills then you can't miss out that core part."
Blackshaw says this type of development is in demand and growing much more common.
"There is a huge market for that now," she says. "For example, for induction packages, CD-ROM is the perfect medium. Along with the classic training we used to deliver on video, CD-ROM can pick up on that and be even better because it is interactive."