Actions: Using Web-Based Training in Adult Education

By Waite, Richard S.; Humphrey, Fowler C. | Journal of Adult Education, Spring 2002 | Go to article overview

Actions: Using Web-Based Training in Adult Education

Waite, Richard S., Humphrey, Fowler C., Journal of Adult Education

The Internet is providing increased opportunities for teaching and learning in adult education, its foremost benefit being in the area of business and industry training. Web-based training (WBT) provides a vehicle in which the benefits of other existing educational technologies are combined into an outstanding educational experience for the learner. Web-based training is superior to other distance education methods because it can be used both asynchronously and synchronously at the convenience of the teacher or the learner. This article provides a discussion of the criteria that can be used when implementing WBT. Finally, it recommends five levels of WBT implementation in order to make full use of the Internet.


The Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW), also known as "the web," is a technological phenomenon of the late 20th century. Although thought of first as a vehicle for delivering information, the web quickly showed promise as a medium for training "at a distance, " a form of adult education. This article provides a selective review of the published literature concerning the use of the web for adult education, especially corporate training. A discussion is presented of the current demand for and the philosophy behind web-based training (WBT), online universities and the two classroom "types" they are using in doing WBT, discussion of a design model for teaching over the web acronymed ACTIONS, the application of WBT to self-directed learning, and five levels of successful implementation of WBT on the Internet.

Market Demand

The term web-based training (WBT) has emerged to distinguish the use of the web as a training and education tool from that of other applications, for example as an information source. According to Driscoll (1999), "The U.S. market for web-based training generated $197 million in revenue in 1997," according to a report published by International Data Corporation (p. 2). Institutions and organizations which have previously used the web as only a way of delivering information to support their education and training efforts are now using WBT to develop skills and knowledge (Filipczak, as cited in Imel, 1997).

WBT Defined

Web-based training is an approach to distance learning in which computer-based training (CBT) is transformed by the technologies and methodologies of the WWW, the Internet, and Intranets. Kilby (1997) defines WBT as CBT designed around web technologies such as web browsers and Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Web-based training proves fresh content, which can be modified at a moment's notice, in a structure allowing self-directed learning and self-paced instruction in any topic. Web-based training is media-rich training fully capable of evaluation, adaptation, and remediation, all independent of computer platforms. Web browsers that support video streaming, animation, chat and conferencing rooms, and real-time audio and video offer unparalleled training opportunities. With the tools available today, highly effective WBT is being designed to meet the training needs of a diverse population. Terms such as Internet-based training, Internet-based instruction, web-based instruction, and web-based learning are similar to if not synonymous with WBT. However, the most important distinguishing characteristic of each is the emphasis on instruction and not just on information delivery.

Technology-Based Alternatives

The distribution of training via electronic instructional delivery to adult learners has become a viable alternative to classroom instruction. The benefits-convenience, cost savings, and better control of the training process-carry enough weight to lure companies away from the traditional, and still dominant, classroom setting. Web-based training is the fastest growing segment of the technology-based training field, which includes CD-ROMs and desktop videoconferencing.

Because of the opportunities presented by the Internet and WBT, a new breed of organization has arisen to meet the demands of working adults: people with multiple responsibilities who wish to participate in lifelong learning, yet cannot fit even part-time study at a traditional institution into their schedules (Joseph and Stamps, as cited in Kerka, 2000). …

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