Training: When popcorn is enough

In today’s business world of reduced personnel, 24 hour/365 day per year service calls, increasing productivity levels and business on the upswing, time is at a premium. It has never been more evident that “time is money,” and it is becoming more difficult for a company to justify reserving time to train employees.


In today’s business world of reduced personnel, 24 hour/365 day per year service calls, increasing productivity levels and business on the upswing, time is at a premium. It has never been more evident that “time is money,” and it is becoming more difficult for a company to justify reserving time to train employees.

With the time crunch, eLearning is a hot topic in corporate training. Flexibility is foremost among reasons for popularity, as a student can receive training any time or any place with a computer. Another major benefit is cost savings, since a student can receive training without travel. eLearning can be designed to allow a student to receive training on a very specific, single topic, or a larger topic which can be broken into small digestible “bites.” If the student did not understand a lesson the first time, he or she can repeat the exact same lesson as needed. Time savings can also be realized by the training department, because an instructor can present (record) a program once and use it to teach an infinite number of students.

The term “eLearning” is used very generously and covers a variety of different learning formats, including:

  • Stand-alone automated lessons (downloaded from the internet or a CD);

  • Internet-based automated lessons (an Internet connection is required);

  • Facilitated Webcast lessons (an instructor teaches using a Webcast provider);

  • Stand-alone podcasts (audio broadcasts downloaded from the Internet or a CD); and

  • Internet-based podcasts (an Internet connection is required).

Industrial automation companies tend to make available two eLearning formats to teach their customer students about products: standalone automated lessons that students can download from the company Website and facilitated Webcast lessons. At Yaskawa, eLearning Modules (or eLMs for short), are part of a total training package that surrounds customers with a wide variety of training options, including Webcasts and onsite and factory classes.

Yaskawa customer students have downloaded an average of 1,585 eLMs per month from the corporate Website, and they order an average of 250 eLM CDs per month. Topics range from motor and drive basics to techniques for implementing specific Yaskawa products.

The goal with eLearning is not to replace factory training classes but to complement them. A typical eLearning module does not allow some training practices, such as hands-on product exercises or student discussions. But, some students only need a small specific training lesson to teach them what they need to know to complete their job in the short term. In this case, eLearning is very appropriate.

Say, for example, that an experienced engineer needs to understand how to enable the torque control mode on a Yaskawa adjustable frequency drive. Instead of the engineer flying to a three day factory training class, he could download the eLM, “Using Torque Control with the F7 Drive.” The course will take 30 minutes to complete, and then the engineer will be ready to set up the drive. On the other hand, if the engineer has little prior experience and needs more extensive training, a traditional factory training class is more appropriate. The factory class will provide the hard-core, hands-on training activities required to learn a highly technical device.

Author Information

John Autero is manager of Technical Training Services for for Yaskawa Electric America Inc. in Waukegan, IL. He can be reached at 800-927-5292.

Help customers do their jobs

Target use for eLearning modules is simple: Provide customer students with a specific, to-the-point lesson to help them do their jobs. Most Yaskawa eLMs take no more than 30 minutes to review and can be downloaded free. No Internet connection is required to run the training, since it resides on the student’s hard drive, which also allows sharing the training with others. eLearning modules are also used as prerequisites for factory training classes. Basic topics are covered electronically, which reduces the length of the factory class and minimizes the time a student is away from the job.

Some companies are building longer and more complicated eLearning programs lasting many hours or even days; others prefer to keep it simple. Sometimes a giant one pound hamburger with all the toppings and special sauce is too much, but few kernels of popcorn hit the spot just right.

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