Why Isn’t Our Online Training Working?

No doubt many fleet managers have either said or heard the question: “Why doesn’t our online training work?” Despite more than 10 years in evolution at most companies, many still are not seeing the results from eLearning that they would like.

Concerns abound, from low completion rates to poor retention of content. The following is just a sampling of the reasons I have heard regarding the poor reception to online training.

- “It’s online.” Many companies simply blame the medium. If the training is online, it is not monitored. Students have been observed checking email, opening other windows or even surfing the Internet while long passages of online training content are running. They return to the training screen only to point-and-click and continue through the course.

Solution: Training should be designed with short content segments that require the user to “do something” to move the content along. Frequent short quizzes should also be added to ensure the student has grasped key objectives before continuing.

- “It’s not engaging.” One of the most frequent concerns I get directly from students is that the content does not hold their interest. Some content will always be dry, but after digging deeper, I often find that it is the presentation and not the content itself. Too many online courses are just repackaged versions of stand-up classes, with only forward and back arrows added to the slides.

Solution: To hold the learner’s interest and make them a part of the learning process, online training content should be developed from the ground-up, with the media in mind. Because many fleet companies are looking to save trainer and travel cost with online training, a portion of that savings should be dedicated to redesigning the course and content delivery.

- “My learners don’t use computers.” Yes, even in 2010, marginal computer skills are a barrier to online learning. Age is one factor when it comes to computer literacy, but not the only one. A 2005 survey by Canada’s Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) determined that: “Age exerts a strong influence on computer use, showing a significant decline after age 45.”

Indeed, the statistics shown for the United States indicate only marginal fall-off in the use of computers for specific task-oriented purposes from ages 25 to 45 (1.9 percent), but a more significant drop-off from ages 45 to 65 (11.8 percent).

Occupation is also a factor in the United States, with managers being 25.5 percent more likely to use computers for task-oriented purposes than service workers.

Solution: Beyond computer skills training for your service employees, the design of online training can also help in this area. Make your training screen navigation as “left-click friendly” as possible, using simple buttons wherever possible. Avoid pull-down menus and right-click functions that may confuse less skilled computer users.

- “My learners prefer live classroom/hands-on training.” - Your maintenance staff will almost universally support live training over eLearning. Having high psychomotor skills, they will best thrive in a “learn by doing” environment.

Solution: It is important that fleet companies do not eliminate hands-on maintenance skills training altogether. For our businesses, online learning should enhance hands-on training, not replace it.

Online training should remove some of the more knowledge-based, content-focused training from the classroom, which allows the live training to focus even more on the hands-on skills transfer and related practice. In many instances, the cost savings gained by shifting some training to

eLearning formats result from reducing in-center training days, not removing them completely.

Stephen Howe is employed as a field trainer by United Rentals, the world’s largest equipment rental company, with approximately 600 locations in North America and an a rental fleet worth more than $3.5 billion. He is a past president of the Automotive Training Managers Council - a global non-profit organization dedicated to sharing best practices and recognizing outstanding training in the automotive and heavy vehicle industries.