WBT vs. CBT vs. eLearning: Decoding Common Education Acronyms

WBT vs. CBT vs. eLearning: Decoding Common Education Acronyms

June 25, 2024
Content Development
Training Strategy

You've likely come across acronyms like WBT, CBT, and eLearning while exploring online learning. These abbreviations and terms can be confusing because they all refer to different aspects of customer education, and some even overlap slightly, so you may be wondering exactly what type of learning experience each term represents.

In this guide, we'll provide clear explanations of all these terms and highlight their key differences, so you can choose the right online learning path for you. The focus isn't about choosing between classroom learning and other options, but rather understanding that you have a variety of learning paths available.

What is web-based training (WBT)?

Web-based training generally refers to any form of training that is delivered via an online environment. WBT content can be presented in a variety of formats: PDFs, videos, multimedia, slideshows, interactive exercises, simulations, and quizzes. It can be delivered either live, on-demand, or via a blended model.

Types of web-based training

Here are the three main types of web-based training:

  1. Synchronous: This type of WBT replicates the traditional classroom environment in an online setting. With synchronous training, learners and instructors participate simultaneously, allowing for real-time interaction such as Q&A sessions and group discussions. Examples include webinars, online lectures, and virtual tutoring sessions.
  2. Asynchronous: Asynchronous learning offers maximum flexibility. Learners access course materials and complete lessons entirely at their own convenience. There's no requirement to be online at a specific time. This method often employs pre-recorded videos, online modules, eLearning courses, and downloadable resources.
  3. Blended: Blended learning combines the strengths of both synchronous and asynchronous approaches. Learners can access self-paced materials, like video tutorials, and then participate in live sessions for discussions, practical exercises, or collaborative activities. This method caters to learners who desire the flexibility of self-paced learning and also enjoy the benefits of real-time interaction.

What is computer-based training (CBT)?

Computer-based training (CBT) is an earlier form of eLearning that uses computers to deliver instructional content – think of a self-contained online course. While it can be web-based these days, CBT can also be delivered on a CD-ROM or downloaded for offline use. Think of it as a more basic version of eLearning, but still a powerful tool for learning new software, company policies, or safety procedures at your own pace.

Today, CBT is often used interchangeably with the terms WBT and eLearning, and the same characteristics we noted above hold true for CBT examples.

What is eLearning?

Of the three terms, eLearning (or electronic learning) is arguably the most commonly used nowadays. Although frequently delivered via a computer, eLearning courses and training programs can be accessed through mobile devices or tablets, making learning even more convenient and portable. There's also flexibility in how eLearning courses are delivered.

When it comes to the glossary of words we use to describe modern learning formats, the terms are fairly interchangeable, with eLearning and WBT more commonly used today.

Key differences between WBT, CBT, and eLearning

Let's take a closer look at how these terms compare when it comes to the key features of a successful learning program.

Accessibility and availability

  • WBT: Think "anywhere, anytime" learning. WBT requires an internet connection, but the upside is you can access it with a web browser from any device, like your laptop, phone, or tablet.
  • CBT: No internet is needed for CBTs. The course materials are installed on a specific computer, so you can learn at your own pace without Wi-Fi. However, the downside is you're limited to that particular device to access and view your course..
  • eLearning: This is the broadest term and can encompass both WBT and CBT. Some eLearning courses might be entirely online, while others might have downloadable components for offline access.

Interaction and engagement

  • WBT: Many WBT programs allow for live sessions or features where you can get real-time feedback from instructors or even interact with other learners online. This can make the learning experience more engaging.
  • CBT: CBT is typically more self-contained and focuses on self-paced learning. You progress through the material at your own speed, usually with limited interaction.
  • eLearning: eLearning uses various types of training. Some courses might be pre-recorded lectures, similar to CBT, while others might take the form of a webinar, or have interactive exercises, online discussions, or even collaborative projects. This variety caters to different learning styles and preferences.

Content management

  • WBT: Updating and distributing new content is easier with WBT. Since everything is online, instructors can simply make changes and the updates are automatically available to all learners. This is a huge advantage, especially for keeping training content current and streamlined.
  • CBT: Updating CBT can be a bit more cumbersome. It often requires re-distributing the entire program because the course is installed on individual computers. This can be time-consuming and logistically challenging, especially for large groups. Some CBT programs might allow for software updates, but it's not as seamless as the online approach.
  • eLearning: As with its flexibility in other areas, eLearning offers a variety of update mechanisms depending on the delivery method. If the eLearning program is entirely online like WBT, updates are easy to manage. However, if the program includes downloadable components, the update process might involve downloading new files or updates specific to the software used.

User experience

  • WBT: WBT fosters a dynamic learning environment that prioritizes interaction and collaboration. Learners can engage in online discussions, participate in real-time Q&A sessions with instructors, and even collaborate on projects with fellow participants.
  • CBT: CBT offers a more controlled and consistent user experience. The learning environment is self-contained and doesn't rely on external factors like internet connection speed or other users. This can be beneficial for situations where a distraction-free and focused learning environment is important.
  • eLearning: eLearning provides the most versatile user experience. Some eLearning courses might be similar to CBT, offering pre-recorded video lectures and self-paced activities. On the other hand, some eLearning programs might leverage the interactivity of WBT with features like online quizzes and simulations. This variety allows learners to choose the approach that best suits their preferences.

Skilljar supports a wide range of training formats

Remember, all the above terms fall under the umbrella of eLearning. Whether you prefer video-driven instruction (WBT) or a more interactive, computer-based experience (CBT), you have options in addition to classroom-based learning. With cloud-based platforms like Skilljar supporting different training formats, you can choose the approach that best suits your learners’ style and goals.

Get a Skilljar demo to see how it can help you create impactful online learning experiences.

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