For auto techs, learning outside the classroom used to mean hours toiling over dry technical manuals. But continuing your auto tech education now is more likely to involve working on a computer -- either online or with a DVD training program.
The e-learning revolution has come to your neighborhood repair shop. Are you ready for the changes? Weigh these reasons for choosing e-learning, and get the lowdown on how to log on to a program.
The Convenience Factor
E-learning "dramatically enhances accessibility," says Mike Phillips, vice president of organizational development at the National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA). Training via computer also allows his organization to present the most current material, reduce training costs and test students more effectively. Another benefit? "The material is available 24/7," Phillips says. "We've had people log on at 2 a.m."
Franchised Dealerships Embrace E-Learning
If you work at a franchised dealership, e-learning probably is already an integral part of your training. Consider this statement from Toyota: "Toyota strongly embraces the use of e-learning for technicians," writes John Saia, technical and body training manager. "E-learning is just one element of a broader approach to technician training that we call 'blended learning,' ... (which) consists of a variety of delivery mechanisms that provide learning opportunities at all levels of technician skills and knowledge."
At Toyota, students learn simple concepts through self-study programs using workbooks, video or satellite network instruction. The automaker also uses computer-based e-learning for interactive instruction on intermediate and advanced concepts, and diagnostic skills are sharpened through simulations.
Independent Repairers Test the Waters
Independent shops, particularly auto-parts and test-equipment suppliers, are beginning to use various forms of e-training. Phillips says NAPA already has 20 lessons online and will add more. "They are a cost-efficient way to deliver training that is convenient for our customers."
Many technicians, whether employed at an independent shop or a new-car dealership, use this form of study at home to keep their knowledge up-to-date and prepare for certification testing.
E-Learning Best for Experienced Auto Techs
Tony Molla, vice president of communications for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), says e-learning is an excellent tool for auto techs with previous training and experience in the field. "It depends on what the individual is looking for," Molla says. "For brush-up, it's fine. For beginners, it is probably not the best way to go." He adds that technicians generally prefer hands-on learning.
Find an E-Learning Program
In addition to auto manufacturers, parts suppliers and test-equipment companies, many secondary and postsecondary educational institutions offer e-learning programs. Molla recommends looking for ASE-certified institutions: "ASE certifies individuals, training programs and training providers."
Basic E-Learning Requirements
Distance learning requires focus and discipline, Molla says. Those who need an instructor and the structure of a classroom to stay on task should bypass e-learning. You'll also need a quiet place to work, such as a room away from the shop and free from interruptions at home.
Paying for Training
Training hours your employer requires are generally considered work time. If you want to undertake training on your own to get ahead, you probably won't be paid for that time. Many employers, however, have tuition-reimbursement programs.