Section 1

What are Multimedia Training Systems?

The letters MTS stand for Multimedia Training System. You may have also seen the letters CBT (Computer Based Training), WBT (Web Based Training), CAI (Computer Assisted Instruction), or CMI (Computer Managed Instruction). But whatever you call it, it is all the same, using computer to train and teach people. Most training professionals and educators agree that MTS is a mainstream technology. A technology based upon computers, the same computers that have revolutionized office communications, the factory floor and the accounting department.

If you have been in training or education for any length of time, you know that the dream of using a machine to teach, test and manage the instructional process is not new. In the 1950’s, B.F. Skinner, a founding father of behaviorist psychology, recognized the emerging potential of computers and wrote extensively on their application to training and education. In 1960, engineers and educators at the University of Illinois formed a committee, and in little over a month, constructed the first CBT learning station which used a television someone in the group had bought for $10 as the monitor. The system they invented was called PLATO, which is short for Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations. Throughout the 60’s, 70’s and on into the 80’s computer based training remained only a dream for most training departments. Progress though, was being made quietly by designers and developers employed by universities, school districts, government and the military. It is interesting to note that the organizations that were the first users of computer based training systems were for the most part, tax supported. This is because computer systems, which had the power to present effective MTS programs, were very expensive. That is, however, until recently. It is now possible to design and deliver MTS programming using “off the shelf” computer systems, which are sold widely for under $2000.

How do Multimedia Training Systems Work?

MTSs manage instructional events. Think about this for a moment. Whenever a skilled trainer is in front of a group, he or she is a manager: a manager of the learning environment. Within the learning environment, he or she arranges for and coordinates instructional events. These events may be in the form of presenting lectures, showing graphic materials and video presentations, asking questions, providing explanations, giving encouragement and testing participants to insure that they have meet the learning objectives of the program. These same events may be
managed by a computer. This is not to say that trainers are not longer needed. Far from it. What we are saying is that MTSs free trainers from the drudgery of personally managing the same instructional events in a never-ending cycle of repetitive classes.

Just as with a human trainer, the computer manages and presents instructional events in a logical sequence. This ability of the computer to manage instructional events insures that participants learn the material And records their performance at each step throughout the lesson. However, MTS is only a tool, and should not be used for every learning task.

When Should MTSs Be Used?

In a supplement to TRAINING magazine, Jan Schulman, in her article Getting Your Feet Wet with CBT: How to Keep the Process Orderly, provides a checklist of questions which will help you to decide whether you should be using multimedia training systems as part of your training efforts.

If you have answered yes to several of the questions above, it an indication that you should be using MTS to deliver your training. If you are unsure if MTS is right for you and your organization, consider the following guidelines set for the by the Coast Guard’s Aviation Technical Training Center. If at this point you have decided that MTS is a technology you want to employ in your organization, then you next step is to begin planning your MTS lesson. To help you, this manual will walk you step-by-step through the MTS course planning process. A process that will produce a storyboard of learning events that will serve as your master-planning document.

The MTS Development Process: An Overview

There are three distinct phases associated with the development of an MTS lesson. These three phases are:

1. Development of a comprehensive plan in the form of a storyboard for the MTS lesson.
2. Computer programming of the lesson based upon the storyboard plan.
3. Installation of the MTS lesson onto selected computers or distributed using your organization’s local area network or intranet.

During this first phase, it will be your job to serve as a course developer. If you have developed video or sound/slide scripts in the past, you will find this to be a familiar activity. If you have never developed a script for either video or slide/sound programs, you will find this guide most helpful. Your objective during this first phase of the project will be to develop a storyboard. A storyboard is a sequence of sheets of paper, which represent each screen appearing in a MTS lesson, along with directions for branching to one or more screens. Once you have completed your storyboard you will then be ready to:

1. Begin the programming phase of your project.
2. Turn you storyboard over to an in-house production unit.
3. Submit your storyboard as part as a RFP to be sent to external media producers.


Before continuing, you should review your storyboard for instructional integrity to confirm that your program will achieve predictable results. It is at this point that you will want to identify the development tools you will use to create your program. Keep in mind that computer based programs can range from Power Point slide presentations to programs distributed using a local area network (LAN) as well as programs delivered using the World Wide Web or your organization’s intranet. Below is a short listing of programming and authoring tools you may want to consider.

Presentation Software

Free Presentation Software

Course Authoring Software

Open Source Course Authoring Software

Course Management Systems

In addition to features that allow you to create content, you should also consider the following features and capabilities.

Once your lesson is programmed and debugged you will want to install it on individual machines or on your organization’s LAN or intranet. If you are developing programs for sale outside of your organization, you will want to test your program on as many types of machines as possible including all versions of Windows.

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