Guide on the Side - Web Based Training - Click and Learn

By Marie Wallace, Published on June 1, 2000

Marie Wallace has enjoyed a fulfilling career as a librarian, beginning in 1951 in academia with the University of California and transitioning in 1971 into the private law library world until her 1995 retirement from O'Melveny & Myers. She is the 1997 recipient of the American Association of Law Libraries' highest honor, the Marian Gould Gallagher Distinguished Service Award. Throughout her professional life, Marie has been a guiding force in the Southern California Association of Law Libraries, Practising Law Institute's programs for law librarians and Teaching Legal Research in Private Law Libraries (TRIPLL).

Today, Marie has commenced on a new path she terms "Life in Progress," which enables her to pursue a diversity of interests as a master swimmer, law librarian, trainer, storyboarder and designer of wearable art.  She continues to be a dynamic speaker and prolific writer on such topics as private law library management, presentations and training. She is a member of Toastmasters International and is active with the American Society for Training Development (ASTD) and in continuing education for private law librarians. She devotes her "free" time to various non-profit and civic activities.


Until recently, I was skeptical about web-based training (WBT), associating it with my attempts to learn DOS via computer-based instruction at evening adult school over a decade ago. I took the four-hour course twice and the only thing I learned was to format a disk! The experience left me feeling like a techno-retard and very negative about training via the computer. Now DOS is out and so is formatting disks but technology delivered training is a billion dollar industry. It occurred to me that it was time to take another look at "click and learn."

The first thing I discovered was WBT goes by a number of names: e-learning, multimedia instruction, cyber-learning, distance learning, online learning or technology delivered instruction. Essentially, WBT (aka all of the above) is teaching and learning in an environment where the instructor and students may be separated in time and place, and some form of telecommunications technology is used to deliver at least part of the instruction.

Reputable sources say that 92% of corporate American and over 50% of colleges and universities are into some form of WBT. Most have found that the practical way to approach WBT is to augment rather than substitute for traditional training and education. While WBT has distinct advantages it has some serious limitations--many technical such as having sufficient bandwidth and firewalls.

There is a wide spectrum of WBT designs. Full blown WBT may involve simulations, interactive exercises, screen sharing, feedback, conferencing, video, audio, and online discussion groups. However, there is also an abundance of simple and hybrid forms like PowerPoint presentations delivered via the internet or an intranet. If you are reading this on LLRX, you are having a WBT experience. It has many of the essential characteristics: available 24/7, non-linear, navigable, linked to additional information, delivered via the web, the reader/learner is in control and there is a feedback mechanism. True, LLRX does not meet the requirements of testing, accreditation and is not marketed as training but it has definite WBT building blocks.

You might want to try what I did for a more complete picture of WBT:

1. Show them
2. Tell them
3. Let them try
4. Repeat
If this doesn't work, change the order of steps until you find a combination that works.

WBT appears to have many benefits. It is seems more focused than instructor-led classes. I like being able to go directly to the material that is new to me and being my own navigator. The really exciting part of WBT is that it is possible to reach out and teach in new and novel ways that otherwise might never happen. Several examples of innovative training applications are:

Using WBT does not mean that instructor-led learning is obsolete. There remain many learning situations where technology-delivered instruction is not effective nor appropriate. Some re-tooling is required of instructors since technology-delivered instruction requires different designs than instructor-led instruction but there are excellent software packages and many experienced consultants to guide instructors in making the conversion.

All in all, I came away from my WBT explorations with a hunch that "click and learn" is here to stay and that it can make training a matter of Just in Time, Just for Me and Just Enough.