As technology changes and moves ahead, so does the role of the IT trainer. While some people view computer-based training (CBT) as a viable option to instructor-led training (ILT), neither method is likely to be alone at the top of the heap by the end of the next decade. The human touch will always be valued, and companies will always be looking for the most cost-effective way to deliver this touch.

In their e-mails and postings on the site, TechRepublic members have talked about the future of training and the skills needed to succeed in these new job descriptions. Read on to find out if you see yourself in any of these roles.

Taking the reins of CBT
People are still arguing about which format is the best—ILT or CBT—but others have moved on to consider how best to mix the two for the optimal learning experience.

Gfbeard suggests that we’re missing the point about the role of IT trainers.

“In fact, we should not see our role as ‘trainers’ per se. I strongly believe that we are ‘Facilitators of Learning’ and, as such, there is a role for CBT,” but we are available as well to help students.

Terri S. describes an entirely new role for trainer in an entirely new format designed to be a complete learning experience and to use some instructor-led modules along with WBT, CBT, and even videotapes.

“In some cases, the instructor-led will be live, in the classroom; and in others, it will be live, over the Internet, to attendees off-site. The instructor will sit behind a control panel with a “producer assistant” fielding the questions from the learners, showing CBT, video, etc., when appropriate. The role of the instructor will be part of a television-like production team.”

Moving beyond technical skills
In addition to having a solid understanding of the software, good trainers have to have their share of people skills and basic teaching skills. Trainers are often forced into the role of counselor when trying to convince a student that he or she has the ability to learn. Also, even if a trainer has mastered the technical side, if she can’t explain it to her students, there’s little reason to have the class.

These people skills and teaching skills will become more important as the training environment becomes more complex.

Jill H. thinks that the skills that make a good IT trainer are often unappreciated or taken for granted.

“I’ve often used the argument that trainers should be compared to artists and comedians. It takes a very special talent to draw a nice picture or say funny things; not everyone can do that. It’s the same with teaching: it takes a creative person to make a class fun, worth the incredible investment that the students are making, and a good environment for learning (for everyone in the class). More people need to appreciate that not everyone can do it.”

Former military member Deborah C. has had her share of bad trainers, but she also has seen enough good work to know what the best kind of teacher looks like:

“I luckily have also had instructors who not only had a lot of knowledge but felt it was the greatest thing that they could pass that knowledge on.

“Being able to pass on your knowledge is harder than acquiring it initially.”
What kind of changes is your company making now that will affect your job down the road? Have you experienced a successful combination of computer-based and instructor-led training? What are the most important non-technical skills that make a good trainer? Send us your ideas, and we’ll use them for a future article.