Looking for ways to mitigate training costs, dealers are turning to e-learning.
E-learning allows service technicians and other dealership personnel to substitute traditional seminar and classroom work with lessons accessed on the Internet.
While traditional training can cost thousands of dollars in travel, materials and hours away from the job, much of the cost associated with the Web-based model comes in the form of startup fees, which can run as little as a few hundred dollars.
E-learning solutions provider LogicBay Corp. of Minneapolis worked with Ford Motor Co. last year to develop an online training course for more than 55,000 service technicians. Technicians can log onto a site and reference new features and potential problems of the 2001 product line.
LogicBay isn't the only company involved in automotive e-learning. Others include Melior Inc., LearningByte International and THINQ Learning Solutions Inc.
Database aids performance
Joseph Bastion, LogicBay's client manager of transportation practices, said his program allows Ford to improve technicians' performance by providing a database that is updated on demand. The reduction in distribution and travel fees, along with the convenience of training online, may reduce a dealer's training costs by as much as 50 percent, Bastion said.
But e-learning has limitations.
'Online learning does not replace or minimize the importance of teachers or trainers, but rather removes the physical constraints of buildings and distance, thereby expanding the teacher's potential reach, efficiency and effectiveness,' said John Bucher, an author who covers the training industry. Ed Smoot, service manager at Olathe Ford RV Center in Gardner, Kan., said Web-based training reduces some headaches associated with keeping his technicians trained.
'Our main problem is sending our guys out of the shop for a day or more to have them learn, when a lot of the theoretical learning can take place right here,' he said.
Bastion said e-learning cannot replace hands-on techniques: 'E-learning closes the training loop by providing the information people need just in time, whether the vehicle's on the hoist or if its just retention of long-term knowledge.'
Melior, an affiliate of the Alabama-based Professional College of the Melior Institute, offers an integrative approach to training technicians both online with the support of tutors and in the classroom.
Melior has traditionally offered technical certification programs at satellite locations, but the institute wants to expand its offerings by providing the initial certification classes via the Web. The online version of these classes will include diagnostic tutorials, voice-overs, animated graphics, online text and a tutor who can be contacted.