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Editor’s Note
: Training and Human Resource Development (HRD) improve performance in competitive business environments. Instructional technologies play a key role in assessment, design, development, delivery, evaluation, and management of training programs. Additional research is needed to guide adoption and implementation of appropriate technologies and ensure continuous quality improvement

Instructional Technologies in Human Resource Development:
Impact, Models, and Changes

James E. Bartlett, II


This paper provides an introduction to instructional technologies that can be used in human resource development (HRD). An overview of the HRD discipline is provided and a discussion is presented that demonstrates how HRD can provide solutions to business problems and improve performance. Instructional technologies are demonstrated as part of solutions the HRD professionals can access from their box of tools. Instructional technologies are presented in terms of learning management systems, synchronous and asynchronous tools for both formal and informal learning. An overview of an evaluation technique that provides scientifically based findings to demonstrate “what works” is presented. The paper provides details on how instructional technologies are changing the HRD profession. The paper concludes with the future trends and impact in the field.


Technology, globalization, and the changing demographics have created new workplaces that are dynamic in nature requiring effective and strategic human resource development (HRD) for organizations to stay competitive. Human resource development is conducted in a wide range of organizations for a variety reasons and in turn focuses on an array of content. Within human resource development, Swanson and Holton (2001) state the “two core threads of HRD are (1) individual and organizational learning and (2) individual and organizational performance”
(p.3-4). The literature in HRD does not view the areas of learning and performance the same However, the overall goal is to improve the individual and/or organization in a specific area.

Similarly, instructional technologies are being used with a variety of content in a number of disciplines with the overarching goal to improve learning. Learning and performance are two major paradigms within the field of human resource development (Kuchinke, 2000). Instructional technology can be used to impact both learning and performance. The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of instructional technologies that can be used in the HRD process and, specifically, in training and development.

Human Resource Development

Human resource development (HRD) is an emergent field that builds upon multiple disciplines including psychology, business, and education (Kuchinke, 2001). The HRD field is well established in practice, however has had only a brief formal existence in academia in comparison to many other disciplines (Swanson and Holton, 2001). When examining the theories of HRD, Weinberger (1998) reported definitions in the field as early 1970. Only recently has HRD been identified as a field in academia. According to the National Center for Education Statistics the Classification of Instructional Programs: 2000 Edition identified HRD as a new academic discipline and provided a specific code in 2000.

The literature has provided many definitions of HRD. The definitions of HRD key components demonstrate the multi-disciplinary nature of the field and include behavioral change, adult learning (formal and informal), performance (human, organizational, individuals level, work process), performance improvement, organizational and personal goals, development (career and organizational), training and development, learning, learning climate, and learning organizations. Key definitions have a variety of underlying theories including psychological, systems, economic, philosophical, human performance, organizational performance, and performance system. While a wide variety of perspectives in the field of HRD can provide a view that is not limiting, it can also create too broad a field of study that is hard to define. For the purpose of this paper, HRD will be defined as the “…process for developing and unleashing human expertise through organization development, and personnel training and development, for the purpose of improving performance” (Swanson & Holton, 2001, p. 4). Swanson and Holton (2001) include system, psychological, and economic as underlying theories in the framework for HRD.      

While all areas of HRD are important, this paper will focus on training, the acquisition of skills to perform a job to the current standards. Training individuals is only one focus of the HRD professional; since training widely uses instructional technologies to mediate learning it will be the main focus of HRD in this paper. Instructional technology is another focus of this paper and it will be examined in terms of instructional technology for workforce training. While technology in training can be used for routine and administrative purposes, technology within training will be presented as “...a branch of knowledge based on the development and implementation of computers, software, and other technical tools, and the assessment and evaluation of students' educational outcomes resulting from their use of technology tools” (NCREL, 1995). Technology that is used in training and learning is typically identified as instructional technology. Seels and Richey (1994) stated the purpose of instructional technology is to affect and effect learning which is no different in the educational settings than the workplace setting. The Association for Educational Communications and Technology (AECT) defines instructional technology in terms of learning and performance as “the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources" (Association for Educational Communications and Technology, 2006). This definition goes on and adds the area of improving performance which can be translated in the workplace as results. When the learning takes place to meet the standards for jobs and improve performance of employees in an organization it is identified as HRD.

The fields of instructional technology and human resource development are distinct in nature but have overlapping goals of learning and improving performance. Rosenberg (1982) presented an historical background instructional technology and human resource development both with its beginnings in instructional media. In academia, the disciplines of business and education often view the areas human resource development and instructional technology from different unique perspectives. With that said, this paper will present both HRD and instructional technology from a blended approach that deals with learning and improving performance. Instructional technologies are one of the many tools to use to create solutions for HRD issues. Instructional technologies deal with learning and improving performance using a specific domain including by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources.  When instructional technology is used in HRD to unleash human expertise and improve performance in the workplace, it can be viewed as instructional technology for HRD.

Model of HRD

One of the most widely recognized models in human resource development is the Analysis for Improving Performance: Tool for Diagnosing Organizations & Documenting Workplace Expertise (See figure 1., Swanson, 1995). The model includes the five steps of analyzing, proposing, creating, implementing, and assessing.

Figure 1. Swanson, R. A. (1995). Analysis for improving performance:
Tools for diagnosing organizations & documenting workplace expertise.
San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler (p.20).

This model focuses on improving performance through inputs, processes, and outputs. Within this model technology is viewed at the organization level. The model demonstrates that technology impacts human resource development in terms of the five steps and specifically in terms of inputs and processes. Instructional technology will be examined in terms of the five phases of human resource development model.

Instructional Technologies in HRD Model Analyze, Propose Create

As demonstrated, the field of HRD has many different perspectives and backgrounds. Within this variety of perspectives, instructional technologies can be used in a number of manners. To explore instructional technologies in the HRD context each of the five phases (analyze, propose, create, implement, and assess) will be examined. While the HRD model presents a phase called analyze, within the area of multimedia instructional design Dick and Cary (1990) separate the analysis phase into two sections of needs assessment and front-end analysis. Within this type of model, the needs assessment phase examines the current business situation and the desired situation business situation. The front-end analysis examines how to eliminate the gap between the desired workplace performance and the actual workplace performance.

While the front-end analysis suggested by Lee and Owens (2000) relates directly to the multimedia instructional design process, others overlap with the more traditional analysis phase in HRD. For example, the audience analysis examining the target population, task analysis determining the requirements for the job, and situation analysis are all similar to steps in the HRD analysis phase. According to Lee and Owens (2000) for multimedia instructional design nine-front end analysis should be conducted examining the audience, technology, situation, task, critical incident, objective, media, extant data, and cost. The areas that impact instructional technologies are determining the technology available, technology considerations, and constraints for delivering training with technology. Additionally, the situation analysis determines environmental factors that can impact while delivering a solution; the media analysis determines which medium is best for delivering the solution; the extant data analysis which determines the materials currently available; and the audience analysis which determines the readiness of the target population. When using an instructional technology, the analysis phase needs to collect data on the relevant technology issues.

The propose phase in the HRD process is the phase in which the HRD professional proposes the solution to the client. While not all solutions involve instructional technologies, it is important when they do incorporate instructional technology to present the solution in a manner that shows how the technologies will benefit learning and performance. For example, if there is data that supports a certain instructional technology has been more effective in transfer of training for a certain topic, this phase should include that information. Furthermore, it would be useful to align the front-end analysis with the proposed solution to explain how the audience, technology, tasks, critical incidents, objectives, media, extant data, and cost align with the current instructional technology solution. Furthermore, it is essential to demonstrate how the solution aligns strategically in the organization.

The create stage in the HRD process is where the solution is developed. Since this paper focuses on instructional technologies, creating a training solution will be the focus in this area. For this type of solution it is important to follow one of the many instructional design models. A systematic approach to instructional design includes analyze, design, develop, implement, and evaluate. In the creation phase, the focus is on the design and development. The specifics of design and development would be different based on the technologies used. Two key factors to address in this creation phase are that design is based on a sound theoretical approach and the instructional technologies used support the design theory. For example, if a constructivist approach is taken in design, an instructional technology that is very linear in nature that does not allow students to explore and learn would not be appropriate. A deeper question is the effectiveness of traditional androgogy methods and learning in the new technological environment (Ahern & Repman, 1994). For example, Hochberg suggests that on online MBA would use global virtual teams as a form of pedagogy. This type of environment would emulate how workplaces operate in today’s business world. While creating solutions can be an important role of the HRD professional, it has been suggested that the HRD professional must be able to select and evaluate solutions that implement instructional technologies.

Implementing Instructional Technologies

In HRD, implementing instructional technologies can occur in a variety of manners. While the majority of the paper discusses training, the implementation can be done in both formal and informal methods. While many of the instructional technologies could be used in both, the following provides examples of implementing instructional technologies in formal and informal situations to improve both learning and performance.

Formal Training

While all levels of education have been impacted by instructional technology, technology has specifically impacted how vocational, postsecondary, and higher education develops the workforce. While human resource development encompasses many areas including performance improvement, organizational analysis, employee relationship management, evaluation, leadership, and organizational change management; a large role of human resource development is viewed in terms of training and employee development. Within HRD, training and development has had the greatest impact from instructional technologies. According to Marsick and Watkins “Formal learning is typically institutionally sponsored, classroom-based, and highly structured” (p. 25). Formal learning can be mediated by technology and is becoming an ever increasingly used technique in the workplace (Benson, Johnson, and Kuchinke, 2002). This section will highlight web-based instructional technologies such as learning management software, synchronous learning tools, and asynchronous instructional technologies for formal training and employee development.

Much of the early instructional technology was on stand-alone workstations and was not highly interactive in nature. For example, a tutorial from a computer application program might be delivered on a disc to teach the basics of the program. The earliest instructional technologies were very linear in nature and had limits due to the technology. Currently the majority of training that is developed uses instructional technology that implements web-based technology. If the training is on the Internet or even over the local company intranet, the instructional technologies allow for high-end graphics, some including video and sound, highly interactive real-time chats with typed text and voice, and additional features that allow the teacher and students to create highly effective learning environments. Boehle (2005) states that companies are seeking a “complete approach” to e-learning and seeking learning management software, content, authoring, collaboration tools, and assessment tools from one source that is cohesive in nature.

Learning Management Software. At the heart of an online training, is the learning management software. Bersin (2005) stated that not one single learning management software vendor has more than 15 percent of the market share. Learning management software is an application that be used for classroom administration, e-learning delivery, administration of compliance, hosting various content, assessment capabilities, and much more (Bersin, 2005). While many organizations implement instructional technology without the use of course management software, it does integrate an online course. Chapman (2005) defines learning management systems, as software that automates the administration of training events. The term describes software applications that track training, and include log-in, authoring, course management, chat, and discussion boards.

In academia, Blackboard and WebCt are two of the most widely recognized applications. In addition to these commercial applications, there are many platforms that are available to individuals that are open source. Open source software provides access to the source code. The distribution terms of open-source software must comply with the following criteria (1) free distributions, (2) include source code or easy access to source code, (3) derived works, (4) integrity of the author’s source code, (5) no discrimination against persons or groups, (6) no discrimination against field of endeavor, (7) distribution of license, (8) licenses must not be specific to a product, (9) license must not restrict other software, and (10) license must be technology-neutral. A few examples of these open source programs that are available include Moodle (, Sakai (, and Atutor ( These packages are very attractive to use in the creation of online or blended training for organizations. While there is no cost for the open source software, Young (2004) states “the time and effort required to install and modify the programs” (p. B12) is hard to estimate. The course management software will allow for the creation of a learning portal for an organization.

While there has been limited research on learning management software, at the Training Expo in New Orleans (2005) Bersin presented findings from “the industry’s first objective analysis of the customer experience” (p. 30). The study found that those having the learning management software hosted externally were more satisfied than those who host internally. Additionally, those with smaller budgets were more satisfied no matter the size of the company. It was suggest that this finding is possible because organizations with smaller budgets might have to simplify the learning management software. Finally, federal sector organizations had higher levels of satisfaction with learning management software than corporate organizations. Highly rated support services for the learning management software related to overall satisfaction. This study also reported that the drivers of dissatisfaction include owning more than one learning management system, departmental or divisional learning management software, and internally developed systems. Additionally, very large populations that integrate the learning management software tend to report more dissatisfaction. Bersin (2005) also reported that there was dissatisfaction of how the learning management system integrates with the organizations enterprise resource planning and human resource systems.

Synchronous Learning Tools. Within the field of human resource development there are a number of synchronous instructional technologies used in training. Synchronous instructional technologies allow for real-time interaction between trainers and trainees. Synchronous learning tools that will be presented include instant messaging, chat room, and real-time video conferencing.

Instant messaging can be a formal method of instructional technologies used in training. This technology is typically used when live interaction is needed by a small group of people. While much of the learning management software allows for small group functions, programs such as AOL Messenger ( and Yahoo Instant Messenger ( are both well suited technologies for communicating. Instant messaging is a great method for individuals to work on group projects, to share files, and to even communicate via voice. These tools can sometimes be more difficult for larger groups. One great use of instant messaging is to answer real-time questions. At the University of Illinois, the online HRD program uses instant messaging programs to respond in real-time to questions from their distance education students; which helps improve the satisfaction of the trainees.

There are many different types of programs that have a chat room feature that can be used in training. Chat rooms can provide an excellent way for trainers to provide material in a lecture format. Chat rooms can be used to deliver traditional lectures and provide an opportunity for interactions between the trainer and trainees. The chat rooms can also provide a time for students to ask questions or get clarification on topics. While chat rooms do have the drawback that to participate live everyone must be logged on at the same time, many offer a feature to archive the text from the chat for trainees to go back and review.

One example is the chat module from the open source learning management software called Moodle. The chat feature was used in an Essentials of Human Resource Management Training program offered at the University of South Carolina. This feature allowed the trainees and trainer to communicate in real-time live. A similar program offered through Cornell University implemented a program called WebEx to conduct live chats. WebEx allows trainees to visually see the trainer. This program has many features and can be explored in more detail online ( While there are many different applications that allow for chats, there are some features that make each unique. One unique feature on many of the current chat programs that are designed specifically for training is the ability to show the participants documents from the instructor’s computer. It is possible with some of the chat programs to show the participants, in the chat room\classroom, the instructors screen and with some of the programs it is even possible to allow the participants to surf the web with the instructor. With this feature, the instructor can go to a web site, and the trainees computer will bring up the same web site. Polling is another feature on many of the chat programs that have been designed for training. This feature allows the trainer to ask questions and get feedback in a tallied format from the students. All of these features allow the facilitator to create an interactive chat room for trainees that mimics a traditional classroom.

Variations of a chat room have been developed to deliver online training. For example, Aragon and Bartlett (2003) presented An Online Professional Development Program for Occupational and Academic Community College Faculty at the Illinois Online Conference. This conference presentation was delivered from a distance and included live interaction with the participants in a virtual classroom. The 2006 Illinois Online Conference offered chat room sessions for live traditional text-based chat, audio poster sessions with pre-recorded audio and slides, audio blogs with messages posted via phone, web poster sessions with links to websites created from the conference, and virtual classrooms that offered live web audio and interaction. This type of conference provides access to many individuals and reduces the barriers to participate in human resource development such as time off work, travel budgets, and selecting a limited number of conferences. Instructional technology offers a cost efficient method for professional development. The instructional technology to support an online conference also allows for archiving of presentations to be viewed at later dates. This is just one example of how a professional conference has implemented instructional technologies, a variation of a chat room, within human resource development.

A highly interactive form of synchronous technologies is video streaming. A drawback to live video streaming is the bandwidth needed. Two way interactive video is being used frequently in training. While many of the examples in business and industry are proprietary, organizations such as Two Way Interactive Connections in Education (TWICE) offer field trips, shared classes, and professional development through video conferencing. Indiana State University offers HRD and Career and Technical Education training through a two-way video conferencing system.

Another form of human resource development that has been offered by the National Center for Career and Technical Education (NCCTE) is in the form of Webcasts. Since 2001, the NCCTE has been conducting Webcasts with experts from the Ohio State University. These Webcasts cover a variety of topics in the career and technical education field. The Webcasts provide the profession access to the experts on specific topics. A traditional web browser, a multimedia computer, and a web address for the broadcast is all the participants need to receive the training. A typical Webcast starts with an introduction of the participants, the participants speak on the topic, and then a chance is provided for questions. While those in the audience at Ohio State University have a chance for questions, additionally the NCCTE staff has a moderator monitoring a live chat room that also fields questions for the experts. The moderator then asks the presenter the questions over the live Webcast. These Webcasts are then archived and available at a later date for viewing. Archives have been used in different professional development programs and are a great example of how instructional technologies can be used to develop human resources.

Boehle (2005) presented the next generation of e-learning as simulations. Interactive online simulations allow the simulation of business environments and create situations in which the participants work in teams and make decisions. Active learning in the online environment creates situations where the participants learn by doing. One strength of this type of learning is the ability for trainees to explore cause and effect relationships. The Gartner group predicted that simulations will be the largest experiential learning technique used online. Ray Vigil of Humana reported a 14 to 1 return on investment from using simulations to help executives make decisions!

Finlay, Desmet, and Evans (2004) stated that much of the literature finds that there is no significant difference between face-to-face instruction and online in terms of performance. McDonald and Bartlett (2000) found that there was no significant difference in face-to-face when compared to online instruction in terms of performance. However, the online group had a significant higher level of satisfaction. In both of these studies, the significant difference, an increase in satisfaction, was explained by the use of the technology. The synchronous technology allows for the mimicking of a traditional classroom. Yu (2003) also found that when students are working cooperatively, anonymity and decreased proximity made the students experience a higher satisfaction. While not much has been presented to document a difference in learning in terms of performance, there has been documented increases in student satisfaction.

Asynchronous Instructional Technologies. Asynchronous is defined as an event that is not coordinated in time. Asynchronous instructional technologies are then defined as instructional technologies that do not work require real-time interactions. The technology allows the participants to be at different locations and be online at different times. Examples of asynchronous technologies include announcements, email, blogs, discussion boards, and pre-recorded lectures.

While not the most eloquent technology to use as an asynchronous tool for training, e-mail is widely used to provide announcements, updates, and feedback. This allows the participants to ask questions and the facilitator does not have to be at the computer to answer. While this is not typically thought of as an instructional technology, it is one of the most commonly used tools. By sending answers to all students in a class, when one student asks a question, is an effective technique. Many of the learning management software have similar features that allow facilitators to post announcements and send messages.

Discussion boards are another instructional technology used in training and development settings. The discussion boards can be used for specific course assignments and allow students to participate and interact with each other. The discussion boards can also be used to create a general discussion area for students to share information on topics that were not facilitated by the instructor sometime called common space. Discussion boards allows for the information to be archived and saved over time. When implementing the case study instructional strategy in a training course, discussion boards are a great tool. One advantage of a discussion board is that people can go back and view them at a later date. Organizations can take information from these types of sources and even create archives of frequently asked questions to share knowledge.

A new form of asynchronous communication that is being used in training are weblogs, more commonly known as blogs. A blog “refers to a personal web page, kept by the author in reverse chronological diary form (Wagner, 2003, p. 131). Wagner (2003) suggest the extension of the learning log concept (Baker, 2003) and allow students to create the log in the form of a blog. Additionally, blogs can be used to archive individuals learning and develop a personal diary of learning. While much of the software for blogs (Blogger, Blogspot, MyPHPblog) allows for quick publishing of traditional text based information and pictures, blogs do come in many different styles and formats. Traditional Blogs are in a text based format. Recently newer blogs have even been created that have video and audio capability.

Du and Wagner (2005) have used learning logs in an MBA course. The findings from their study suggested that the performance on the weblogs could be used to predict performance on exams. This was hypothesized since the weblogs appear to promote constructivist learning, provide reinforcement and provide accountability. Furthermore, with the open nature of blogs, it is suggested that researchers examine blogs for learning situations in both formal and informal settings.

Lectures, if recorded, are a form of asynchronous communications. Like many of the other instructional technology, there is a spectrum on which this technology exists. Lectures can come in the format of a traditional typed page in a PDF or traditional word processing format (RFT, DOC, TXT) and others provide lectures in a presentation format in a more traditional PowerPoint format. Lectures in PowerPoint can be in a format that includes audio which is commonly referred to as a voiceover. Additionally, programs such as OnCue by Impactica, RealPresenter, and others allow the facilitator to incorporate video, audio, PowerPoint, and text. A major advantage to these types of lectures is that they can be delivered in a variety of methods. It is possible to save this information to a DVD or CD and allow the participants to view it on their own time and be reviewed as needed. Additionally, these types of lectures can be delivered over the Internet with technologies such as plug-ins and/or java enhanced browsers. If saved in the correct format, these types of technologies allow for Webcasting. This allows participants flexibility in when and where they would be able to complete the training.          

Another form of asynchronous technology that can be used in the delivery of training is self-introductions. The self-introductions can be done in a variety of manners. Much of the learning management software has an area that allows users to create a profile. In the profile typically the participant can share a photo, general information, and contact information if desired. This type of information is useful for training groups working in teams to share instant messenger and email addresses.

While not exhaustive, the formal training with instructional technology provides many examples of how HRD implements instructional technology. Both synchronous and asynchronous technology have advantages and disadvantages for use in HRD. It is important that the instructional technology matches the goals of the training. In additional to formal training, informal training implements instructional technologies.

Informal Training

Informal training is defined in contrast to formal learning. “Informal learning is usually intentional but not highly structured…When people learn incidentally, their learning may be taken for granted, tacit, or unconscious.” (Marsick and Watkins, 2001, p. 25-26). Examples of informal learning can include “self-directed learning, networking, coaching, mentoring, and performance planning that includes opportunities to review learning needs” (Marsick and Watkins, 2001, p. 26)

Many of the technologies that have been described above for formal training can also be used in informal training settings.  Having a course designed and available without an instructor present provides a setting that supports self-directed learning. Learning management software can be used to design this type of course and make it available to employees. Instant messenger can be used to help individuals in work teams learn in informal settings. This technology can be used to see answers to questions on an ‘as needed’ basis. An example of informal training using a Blog can be seen at the University of South Carolina. The Technology Support and Training Management Department implements a blog with their current students to share information on classes and special announcements. This type of forum can also be used in a formal business setting. Some executives are using blogs to share information with employees. While this might not be recognized a formal instructional technology, it can be viewed as the modern day water cooler for sharing information.

Coaching is one of the fastest growing techniques for human resource development. A 2005 Training and Development survey, conducted by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development in the U.K., reported that 88% of the organizations were using coaching as a technique in their organization for employee development. Rossett & Marino (2005) illustrate in an applied article that coaching is progressing to incorporate internet technologies such as instant messaging, discussion boards, and email. While much of the literature reports a lack of empirical studies in the area of coaching, Wang and Wentling reported in 2001 that providing distance based coaching did, in fact, positively impact transfer of training. Coaching practices are being implemented into a variety of business situations including managers seeking to improve the performance of employees, senior level successful executives attempting to mentor promising stars, or even team leaders seeking to develop high performing work teams.

Evaluating Instructional Technologies in HRD

Evaluation is important in all aspect of HRD, however it is extremely important when using new instructional technologies for training. Providing evidence of what is working is essential to ensure that money is not being spent unwisely in training. An effective and scientifically sound form of evaluation that could take place is the design of an experiment. Since this section does not have sufficient length to discuss all of the different formats for experimental design, a text such as Experimental and Quasi Experimental Designs for Generalized Causal Inference by Shadish, Cook, and Campbell (2002) is recommended as a reference tool. This section proposes an approach to evaluation of training based on Swanson’s (1995) Results Assessment System. This approach includes three domains of assessment: performance results, learning results, and perception results. Additionally it incorporates an experimental design.

Figure 2 illustrates the Solomon Four Group design described by Campbell and Stanley (1963).

Figure 2. Solomon Four Group Design

R = random assignment to group           O = Measure     X = Training (Treatment)

R1 = pre-test experimental group (received training) R2 = pre-test control group (no training)

R3 = no pre-test experimental group (received training) R4 = no-pretest control group (no training)

----- = random assignment of group to treatment

O1 & O2 = Pre-tests                                O3, O4 O5 & O6 = Post-tests

The process first sets out to define the group that is being trained. If at all possible, it would be best to divide the group randomly into four sections. Then assign each of the four groups randomly to one of the four sections (experimental group with pre-test, experimental with post-test only, control group with pre-test, and control group with post-test only). If random assignment to groups and random assignment of groups to treatment is not possible, a quasi-experimental design can be implemented. The process sets out to first measure the individual’s performance, perceptions, and knowledge to provide a baseline (pre-test score). However, to control for internal validity (the testing effect) only two of the groups will be given the pre-tests. Additionally, at this initial outset it is important examine barriers for transfer of the training to the workplace. If individual’s measures (perceptions, knowledge, and performance) are high, no training intervention may be needed however, if the measures are low then training can be implemented to the experimental groups (groups identified in rows with an X in figure 1, R1 and R2). The training that implements instructional technologies should directly impact trainee in the areas of learning and perceptions. Additionally, learning and perceptions will impact on each other, barriers to transfer, and the results (workplace performance). After training is conducted, it is suggested that the trainees’ perceptions, learning, and the results in terms of post-test scores be measured. Specific measures are based on the content of the topic for the areas of perceptions, learning, and results. If there is a significant difference in the measurements from the groups that received training than those that did not, it would then be beneficial to provide training to the control groups. A basic statistical test such as a t-test or an anova could be used to compare the scores of the groups.

While this method to examine the use of instructional technology appears complicated and time consuming, it is needed to provide a solid scientific data for evaluation. Since many times it is not possible to provide training to everyone in an organization at one time, this method can take advantage of that and offer a means to evaluate based on delivering training at different time periods. Additionally, if the training is not effective it would eliminate the possibility of delivering poor training to everyone in an organization at one time. This method controls for the threat of testing, history, maturation, instrumentation, mortality, regression to the mean, selection, and selection-interaction with the other threats. This method will help develop a literature base for researchers and practitioners to share what works effectively in terms of instructional technology for HRD.

Changing Role of the HRD Professional

It has been quite obvious how instructional technologies have impacted the process of training and development. Furst-Bowe (1996) stated that the HRD professional does not need to concentrate on the development as much as the use and evaluation of instructional technologies. The changing technologies have offered a variety of methods to deliver training, reduce costs, and provide many options for training. How this impacted the HRD professional is not the question. The question is how much it has impacted the role of the HRD professional. First, technology is changing many of the solutions available for the HRD professional in the areas of learning and performance in addition to changing many of the traditional administrative tasks. However, the role of the HRD professional is still to help improve the organization and individual. The traditional trainer is identified as a coach or facilitator, not someone that stands up in front of classroom and delivers training. He or she needs to be skilled in instructional design, organizational change, and organizational behavior. Since HRD is defined broadly, the implementation of technology and the use of instructional technology is impacting the role of the HRD professional. While the overarching theories are similar and the models are still appropriate, the areas of design and develop have been impacted the most.

When moving training from a traditional setting to an online setting, adapting to changes are major concerns of many trainers. Yang (2004), states that online training is widely accepted as being student-centered whereas traditional training is viewed as instructor-centered. This shift has changed the roles of trainers from lecturers, in a traditional setting, to facilitators, in an online environment (Ascough, 2002, Volery, 2000, & Knowton, 2000). Trainers are concerned with facilitating well-considered discussion that will be thought provoking for trainees (Kettner-Polley, 1999), perceptions of trainees motivation and learning (Wu & Hiltz, 2004), changing roles of facilitators (Murihead, 2000), and becoming instructional designers (Zheng & Smaldino, 2003). Online instructors are further concerned with the responsibility to provide technical support to students (Murihead, 2000), shifting materials to online course management software, and interacting and connecting with trainees at a distance (Volery, 2000); all while maintaining other more traditional responsibilities.

Future Trends and Impact on HRD

The future of instructional technologies in HRD is hard to predict. It is apparent that HRD and instructional technology have grown out of the instructional media field (Rosenbeerg, 1982). The fields have begun to merge: while the instructional technology field focuses more on learning and the HRD focuses more on business and performance, both work jointly to improve performance.

With the increase in bandwidth when using Internet technology and the growing number of individuals with computer access, the possibilities are endless. With the push to open source learning management systems,it is possible for many organizations to afford instructional technologies for training. The use of strong evaluation to demonstrate what is working will provide a positive impact on HRD. HRD professionals collecting and providing evidence of success in terms of strategic business areas will additionally help the profession strengthen.

Instructional technologies are creating many opportunities for informal learning. Additionally, many of the instructional technologies mimic a business environment that is today calling for global collaboration, continuous learning, and knowledge management. If used strategically, the instructional technologies can be used to create a learning culture and help keep competitive advantage. This can help in the creation of an organization that has the ability to foster learning.


In conclusion, HRD initiatives are implementing instructional technology widely. While there is a great deal of literature on the use of instructional technology in human resource development, there is not as much research on the effectiveness of the instructional technology. More research is needed to evaluate the impact of instructional technology and specifically how the instructional technology impacts the strategic goals of organizations. Metrics are needed to assess the impact of instructional technology. Since instructional technology in HRD is used in such a wide variety of settings, providing scientific methods to view effectiveness would be useful. Additional research on informal learning would strengthen the case for its use in HRD.

Further development is needed in research and theoretical foundations in the area of HRD instructional technology use. Since instructional technologies are changing the role of the HRD professional, it would be useful to examine the traditional frameworks to see the impact of instructional technology. For example, does the traditional androgogy model fit with the use of instructional technology in HRD. Instructional technology will continue to be used in developing human resources in the workplace.  A better understanding of how instructional technology and human resource development work together will improve the development of human expertise.


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Key Terms and Definitions

Asynchronous Learning Tools – Learning tools to support the education of students at different times and different locations (e.g. discussion boards, e-mail, and message posting).

Blog –an individuals web page, that is kept in reverse chronological format similar to a diary. An online diary. The term blog was coined by John Barger in 1997 and stands for we(b) log.

Human Resource Development – Use of career development, organizational development, and training and development to improve individual, group, and organizational performance.

Informal education – Learning occurs outside of a structured learning experience.

Instructional Technology – “the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources” (AECT, 2004).

Learning Management Software – Typically a suite functions that is web-based, for online instruction. Core features includes threaded discussions, web pages for presentations, email, chat, synchronous collaboration tools, shared workspace, upload functions for submitting assignments, and functions to evaluate students.

Open Source Software - provides access to the source code and additionally the distribution terms of open-source software must comply with the following criteria (1) free distributions, (2) include source code or easy access to source code, (3) derived works, (4) integrity of the author’s source code, (5) no discrimination against persons or groups, (6) no discrimination against field of endeavor, (7) distribution of license, (8) licenses must not be specific to a product, (9) license must not restrict other software, and (10) license must be technology-neutral.

Synchronous Learning Tools – Learning tools that support the process in which the instructor and students interact concurrently. This can take place in a virtual classroom through video conferencing, real time web-based broadcasting, or chat.

About the Author

James E. Bartlett, II, Ph.D.
University of South Carolina – Columbia
Department of Retailing
Carolina Coliseum
Columbia, SC 29208


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