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Ed Cohen (1 Posts)

Ed Cohen

Ed Cohen has more than 30 years of experience in e-learning and over 15 years experience in the Learning and Performance space. In 1993, he founded Sensory Computing Inc, which in 1998, was merged with Plateau Systems. From 1998 until 2011, Ed was the CTO and helped manage and grow the company until it was purchased in 2011. During his time at Plateau, Ed published dozens of articles and routinely spoke at learning conferences on trends within the industry. Ed is also a chairman within the AICC and sits on the LMS advisory board for

The Present and Future State of Computer Based Training and MOOCs

Recently I have seen a couple of articles discussing how Computer Based Training (CBT) will never replace teachers, and how Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are the way of the future. In my opinion, both of these claims are wildly inaccurate and show how little the authors understand technology.

Learning and training technology typically falls into two different categories:

  1. Using a new technology to accomplish something you could not do previously.
  2. Using a new technology that improves the delivery of an existing method of instruction.


The Current State of Computer Based Training
When CBT first started out, it was known as Computer Assisted Instruction (CAI). The idea was to offer something that augmented traditional classroom instruction. Applications were typically simulations, games, quizzes, complex interactions, or relatively short pieces of instruction that allowed the student to learn and experience things beyond the classroom. CBT was never intended to replace classroom instruction a hundred percent; however, depending on the subject matter, it has gotten close. (I plan on writing more about why this is true in my next post, so stay tuned.)

The Current State of Massive Open Online Courses
MOOC’s are at the other end of the spectrum. MOOCs leverage a new technology to deliver an existing method of instructions on a much larger scale. The participant’s end user experience of attending an online class delivered via MOOC is arguably better than sitting in an auditorium with two hundred classmates. While MOOCs eliminate obstacles associated with attending a formal class, they are susceptible to a whole new list of potential problems. (Once again, this will be the subject of an upcoming post.)

MOOCs are getting a bad rap due to low completion rates and potentially lower student scores. I attribute this to two factors:

  1. Instructors don’t know how to use the technology effectively, and
  2. The bulk of the student population interested in taking a class quickly discovers they don’t care to complete it.

This isn’t bad, it is just a symptom of making a class so easy to access that anyone and everyone interested can sign up for it.

Looking Towards the Future
My point is, Computer Based Training started as something called Computer Assisted Instruction, and was intended to be another tool a teacher or instructor could use to enhance the learning process, not unlike overhead projectors or chalkboards. Over the past 40+ years it has evolved to replace stand up instruction for certain subject areas, but it has not evolved beyond that.

MOOCs are potentially a technology that eliminates the need to show up in a classroom. However, it has a way to go before it proves to be as effective as a traditional classroom.

One is not a substitute for the other, and neither technology has a complete solution today. However, I do think the first company that delivers a well-coordinated curriculum utilizing g both technologies could offer a complete solution.

What do you think?