There are several different methods to training; the most common is the classroom approach with live instructors or video presentations. "The only problem is that many classrooms and videos offer passive exposure," said Bill Russell, president of Russell Associates, a Le Sueur, Minnesota-based company that creates custom computer-based training programs for businesses. "Students may be present, but they 'glaze out' and don't retain the information."

Russell believes computer-based interactive training is a better way to deliver training, especially where safety issues are concerned, because it's interactive. Unlike other training methods, computer-based interactive training forces students to react at every point to keep the program moving. This ensures the student is alert and involved and the program is moving at exactly the correct speed. The program gives constant supportive correction or feedback to student responses. Students also learn subject matter in about half the time with computer-based interactive training, and a software program also monitors students' knowledge and understanding at every step.

For example, a computer-based program can show how to correctly make an electrical connection. With computer-based training, the impact of an incorrect answer is reinforced during testing. When a safety question is answered incorrectly, a graphic animation demonstrates what would happen in real life if that mistake were made. For example, if you answer incorrectly about a certain safety precaution, the program might show an animated on-screen character getting zapped by an electric current. "Animation is a highly effective teaching tool, one that really helps modify behavior," Russell said. Studies show animated computer training makes lessons 50% to 70% more understandable.

Scheduling and consistency

When considering delivery methods for your training program, scheduling is another factor to consider. In classroom situations, it is sometimes difficult for a manager to schedule training at a time all employees can attend and coordinate those times with instructors' schedules. And, if training is taking place at multiple sites, the logistics of transportation must be considered as well.

Consistency is another often-overlooked factor when it comes to training. Many times training is done by managers, or people who once performed the job for which they're training others. Unfortunately, this method opens the door for inconsistent training, and biased training. And, what happens when a major training session is completed and then a new employee starts? With computer-based training, employees can train any time. "Besides making scheduling easier, computer-based interactive training allows for consistent, one-on-one training," Russell said.

10 steps to a good safety program

With any kind of training program, proper design of the program is key to its effectiveness.

Russell says there are 10 basic steps to ensure a training program is high quality. If any of these steps are overlooked, the training program suffers.

1. Determine the training objective. All training programs seek to modify employee behavior somehow. Determine exactly what you want your employees to be able to do at the end of training.

2. Develop a list of competencies. What must each employee be able to do at a given level of training?

3. Create a student profile. Determine who will be undergoing training. Consider their age, gender, education, learning skills, etc. Knowing your audience helps determine the language you use, making the training easy to follow.

4. Have the training manager determine an outline of the subject matter to be covered based on the competencies and student profile.

5. Expand the outline for completeness and sequence at least once, maybe a second time.

6. Develop training based on the outline.

7. Test the training on experts.

8. Test the training on actual students to determine usability, understandability, and effectiveness.

9. Correct the training content based on feedback and reviews.

10. Evaluate your testing to make sure all questions are good. A question missed by many students may indicate the question is poorly written, or that point was not covered well enough in the training. "Companies who don't follow these steps can still implement a training program that's compliant to guiding organizations (OSHA, or other agency)," Russell said. "However, if you really want to modify behavior with your training, it's vital that these steps be followed."