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  Special Feature

Training Super Highway: From Classroom Training to M-Learning

Posted 2/13/2012
By Leona Dalavai Scott

Getting on board the training super highway has become easier than ever
with a variety of options to suit many shops.

The days of “Training is too expensive” or “I can’t be away from my shop for several days” or “I just don’t have time,” may be a thing of the past. With today’s training options for automotive service and collision repair shops running the gamut from traditional modes of in-classroom training to “M-learning” – short for “mobile” learning – excuses may be harder to come by.

What is mobile learning? The eLearning Guild defines “mobile learning” as “any activity that allows individuals to be more productive when consuming, interacting with, or creating information, mediated through a compact digital portable device that the individual carries on a regular basis, has reliable connectivity, and fits in a pocket or purse.” Wikipedia defines mobile learning as “any sort of learning that happens when the learner is not at a fixed, predetermined location, or learning that happens when the learner takes advantage of the learning opportunities offered by mobile technologies.”

Much like the cafeteria food line, shop owners are finding they can pick and choose their training from the many options available to tailor a shop’s needs – whether that be specialty, budget, convenience and more.

ASA has a strong history of offering a variety of classroom training at the local, regional and national levels. Automotive Service and Repair Week – comprised of NACE and CARS – has offered traditional methods of classroom training for the association for 30 years.

Ellen Pipkin
Ellen Pipkin

Ellen Pipkin, show manager with Hanley Wood Exhibitions, which manages ASRW for ASA, says technology has greatly influenced training at NACE and CARS, and gives attendees a variety of ways to receive training and information about the show – even long after the show has ended! Pipkin says attendees are becoming more interactive and tech savvy with smart phone and pad computing technology.

Some of the mobile learning technology implemented at the show includes:

  • Use of eventTXT in forums and panel sessions – participants can submit questions via text messaging, which is collected by a coordinator and provided to the panel moderator for integration into the discussion.
  • Recordings of conference sessions for sale in CD and MP3 format for post-show use – many attendees purchase these to train their employees once they are back at their shops, and as an ongoing educational reference. Some session recordings include the session handout.
  • Ability to access and download session handouts electronically from the ASRW website (ASRWevents.com).

Despite the wave of Web-based learning options, Pipkin feels strongly that classroom training is one of the backbones to a good training model.

“ASRW attendees get their education and training from multiple sources – AMI, I-CAR, paint companies, tool companies, just to name a few,” she says. “All are essential for operating a successful automotive shop in today’s market. However, research from leading trade show publications shows that attendees continue to value in-person/face-to-face educational opportunities.”

While Hanley Wood has no plans to change the in-person classroom training model for ASRW sessions, Pipkin says they have discussed ideas such as tying conference sessions to webinars during the year for a more year-round education model, or “sneak peeks” from key session instructors, for example.
Create a Continuing Education Plan You Can Stick To

To get started on planning the training needs for your shop, Tim Dwyer, automotive instructor at OSU’s Pro-Tech Program, suggests these steps:

  • Look into all of your training options, including local career tech schools, universities, ASA affiliate and national training events, parts/tool vendors, individual trainers who specialize in a particular make and more.
  • Set aside time each year to schedule training. You know your shop’s busy times so keep that in mind.
  • Set aside finances to cover training costs. It may help to have abudget completely separate for training-related expenses.
  • If you are able to customize your training needs, Dwyer suggests it’s best to have a live vehicle available to demonstrate on.
  • Try to get as much information as possible about the class through online resources prior to the training so a technician can be as prepared as possible. “This would set expectations of what the class is going to cover and encourage attendees to come prepared to make efficient use of time. There is nothing worse than attending a class that was not what you thought it was going to be!” says Dwyer.

Dwyer knows that his steps may be challenging for some shops to implement but makes this point: “… constant training is needed to service today’s vehicles, and if education is not included in your business plan, it is a plan to fail.”

Many ASA members recognize the value of classroom training but they are also making room for other training outlets such as Web-based modules or webinars.

The Automotive Management Institute (AMI) began offering monthly webinars conducted by its instructors in 2010. AMI describes its webinars as “combining the strengths of instructor-led classroom training with the advantages of online convenience and accessibility.”

Toni Slaton
Toni Slaton

Toni Slaton, AMI executive director, said AMI plans to increase participation in 2012 by:

  • offering evening sessions;
  • offering more in-depth content by scheduling two-part sessions on consecutive days or months; and
  • promoting archived sessions  to be viewed at the student’s convenience.

While AMI webinar participation is still in the “building” stages, Slaton believes webinars are here to stay because of their convenience and affordability.

“Today’s economic climate dictates businesses are operating in an ever more competitive market where staff training and development is crucial to success. Using webinars as a resource to provide that training is growing more popular with shop owners and managers who appreciate the convenience and cost savings,” she says.

Industry leaders such as Delphi, an ASA member benefit provider, will be introducing new technology to bring training directly to the shop instead of the shop going anywhere. Later this year, Delphi will launch four one-hour, online leader-led courses for customers in remote locations.

The company received feedback from technicians located in remote areas who find it difficult to attend scheduled classes due to location, so it proposed the online leader-led solution. Based on the initial feedback, it will be incorporating the online courses into Delphi’s overall training curriculum for 2012.

“While Delphi continues to emphasize our in-person, leader-led programs as the premier training method, we believe that online courses can provide a similar level of expertise and information as the face-to-face version, regardless of location,” says Mark Shasteen, vice president, global independent aftermarket, Delphi Product & Service Solutions (DPSS).

Tim Dwyer
Tim Dwyer

Tim Dwyer is an automotive instructor at Oklahoma State University’s Pro-Tech Program. A former shop owner now a trainer, he shares a unique perspective on what is the best training model for shops today.

Dwyer believes continuing education for a technician is critical to a shop’s success. How to implement that, he says, is individually as unique as the shop itself. To get his tips on coming up with a continuing education plan, please see the adjacent sidebar, “Create a Continuing Education Plan You Can Stick To.”

Dwyer has learned many lessons on how to teach and train today’s emerging technicians in his years as an automotive instructor. But one of his toughest lessons can be shared with shops:

“After years of struggling with the idea that I had to teach our students everything there is to know about the automobile, I finally realized that I really just need to provide an environment in which they can learn. I know that sounds simplistic ... I can’t honestly say what the future of automotive service and education is going to be like. Things change exponentially and maybe that is the key – you have to be able to change as fast or get left behind.” Fortunately, with all of the training options available, shops can get on board the training super highway and not get left behind.

 

 

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