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The rapid growth of the Internet technology has stimulated the development of more sophisticated Web-based teaching systems. WBT as an effective teaching and learning platform has been widely accepted by professional certification preparation institutions. Almost every professional certification assisting institution provides the choice of face-to-face training and Web-based training. WBT offers students flexibility and convenience in preparing for certification. Due to the high requirement for hands-on problem solving skills, many professional certification exams test students’ hands-on skills. It is critical for students to learn hands-on skills before taking their professional certification exams. To get students ready for hands-on related questions on the exams, many professional certification preparation institutions have developed WBT with lab components. Through these types of WBT, students are able to access the simulated or real-life lab environment for hands-on practice. Companies, such as Microsoft, Sun, and Red Hat, use WBT to provide training for their new products. Before even a new product is on the market, these companies post free e-training course materials to help potential users to get familiar with the product. Users will get a chance to learn about the new features provided by the forthcoming products. Often, these online training courses are accompanied with virtual labs that provide an in-depth, online hands-on training. Through virtual labs, users can learn how to install and configure new products. They can also learn how to use the new products to accomplish some of the administration and application tasks. These WBT courses are an effective way to learn about new products according to a user’s own schedule.
The progress in developing Web-based learning tools and course management tools motivates colleges and universities to accept WBT as one of the teaching and learning platforms. Although Web-based training is popular in the IT industry, there are few reports from higher education institutions about this type of training for their lab-based courses. One of reasons is that it takes much more effort and resources to meet the requirements by the special needs of technology-based online courses.
The second reason is the lack of prerequisite knowledge and skills. The trainees in the IT industry who participate in the WBT system are professionals. They are familiar with the fundamental knowledge and terminologies in the training of their own fields. Therefore, technology-based online training is not difficult for them. On the other hand, college and university students are new to the course content.
They are not familiar with the basic terminologies used in the lab activities. So, they need more help from their instructors. Therefore, face-to-face teaching can do a much better job to help these students.
The biggest advantage of Web-based teaching is that it can reach out to the students who are unable to attend classes in a traditional classroom setting or who want an alternative to the classroom teaching. Online learning allows these students to control how and when they learn. No other teaching platform has this advantage.
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