Paul Kasler looks at the advantages of ePractice and assessment as part of 'blended learning'.
You've just sent your technicians on their sixth day of formal off-site training this year. That means you've probably lost over £3,000 in service revenue per technician, excluding the cost of the actual training course and expenses. And what have you got to show for it? Are your staff working any more efficiently? Have your warranty returns decreased because faults are much more accurately diagnosed?
If you have progressed your career up through the ranks, you will understand that knowing Ohm's Law inside out will not automatically bring with it the ability to quickly diagnose a faulty connection, a bad earth or a burnt out resistor. If you have ever sat down with an EB-101 basic circuit board and managed to work out where the failed resistor is located in a complex parallel circuit, you will be fully appreciative of the benefits of training tools employing hands-on diagnostics.
Taking this a step further, imagine how much more effective training could be if some of the basic skills could be mastered by your staff whilst in the garage, say over one or two 'outside of work' hours each week over a five to ten week period. We're not talking here about eLearning, that much maligned and over hyped term, typically referring to a series of PowerPoint screens with a 'Next' button that the technician wades through in the pretence of learning. No, we're talking about the next generation of technology called ePractice, where the technician uses actual garage tools to make measurements and is constantly tested on their understanding of principles with interactive tests and animations. ePractice requires considerable user interaction and ensures that there is continuous checking and testing of the student - they are kept on their toes at all times!
eAssessment is the natural final stage of ePractice, where the student's overall knowledge of that particular online training module is fully tested and measured. By eAssessment, we don't just mean a series of boring multiple choice questions, but an assessment process that is both challenging and entertaining for your technician. There is no other discipline that lends itself so well to our unique form of assessment. The PC that the delegate is using to go online in the work place, is connected to a small desktop electronic Break out Box figure and if wished, to an actual vehicle.
The eAssessment tests require the candidate to perform measurements using actual equipment used in the garage via the eBOB or a real vehicle. Up to 64 real faults can be downloaded to a standard vehicle for the technician to diagnose as part of the eAssessment exercise. The 'off the road' vehicle concerned can be configured for this purpose in under ten minutes.
These technologies are now being actively deployed in the UK, both to independent garages and main dealers, to complement traditional formal training techniques. Please note that we are not advocating ePractice and eAssessment as the total panacea to training - just a key new component of a carefully matched 'Blended Learning' programme.
Shortly, ITE will be announcing the results of controlled tests, comparing traditional training methods with those incorporating ePractice, as a pre-requisite to attending formal short courses. Controlled groups of technicians, having used ePractice tools, will be assessed against a group of students trained in the traditional manner.
Initial feedback indicates that formal short courses can be reduced in duration by as much as 30%. This is achieved by technicians carrying out garage based training for ten one hour online sessions, prior to coming on the formal off-site course. More importantly, it is believed that the quality of diagnostics will be significantly improved, because the technician is already fully up to speed with the fundamental principles before attending the course.
Paul Kasler is business development manager for ITE (UK), the only dedicated 'autotronics' training supplier to the automotive industry worldwide. The technologies discussed here represent over £500,000 of investment over the past two years.