Distance Maintenance Training

May 1, 2001

Distance Maintenance Training

Online learning is a powerful business tool

By Nick Sergi May/June 2001 Brick to click. What does it mean for today’s aircraft technician? Simply stated, with the advances in technology and the growth of the Internet, a new variety of classrooms are being added. No longer is it just the traditional brick and mortar surroundings. E-learning is happening and eventually it will affect where and how aircraft technicians will train.

New business tool
Online corporate training is poised for tremendous growth. Last year, corporations spent approximately three percent, or $2.2 billion of the $66 billion spent on training for online training. By 2003, it is forecasted they will spend closer to $11 billion for online training. Online learning is becoming a new standard and business leaders realize that corporate education has become more than a human resources function — it is now a strategic business tool. E-learning created greater productivity, increased profitability and strengthens employee loyalty.
Distance education is not a new phenomena. In reality, distance education has existed for more than a century with European correspondence courses being the first. What is new is advanced communication technologies, coupled with computer-based learning enhancements. Format presentation and technology can vary widely from lectures in Microsoft® PowerPoint™ presentations, to text on class web sites, to streaming video – in real-time or student time, to videotape sent by mail.

Unique opportunities and benefits
Distance learning does not mean the replacement of the instructor-led classroom. Rather, it is a global highway that offers unique opportunities. Many more technicians will soon be able to train on a greater variety of subjects — anytime and anywhere — without leaving home and family. No longer will corporations have to limit the numbers trained because of rising airline fares and hotel costs. And, Internet education allows for a greater degree of customization to the learners’ needs. For instance, curriculum can be developed to meet the particular needs of new hires with limited experience. Each will be more productive earlier and, when in-depth training on systems is required, many more will be better prepared. Soon, adaptive technologies that personalize curriculum and the learning experience will enable learners to focus on those areas where they need the most help and not be distracted with material already known.

Online connections
Online learning can also be collaborative. Learners in California can work together on solving problems with learners in Europe or New York through the growing arsenal of technological capabilities.

Self-discipline required
Even with high-tech tools, the conversion from classroom to Internet is not easy or intuitive for most learners. One of the reasons is that online learning requires more self-discipline. Courses can entail more reading and attention to what is on the screen, than sitting in class soaking up the instructor’s words. For technicians who are mainly kinesthetic learners, that is, persons who focus best by doing it themselves instead of listening or watching or reading, may find this type of presentation unsuitable. And, it can be lonely without the visual and verbal interaction of the traditional classroom. Still, one benefit of this self-paced, individualized type of instruction may be the opportunity to thoroughly study a problem. Some distance delivery allows students to stop the program, get up, walk around, and think a problem through — something that can’t be done during a class lecture.
E-learning is not a fad and it will soon prove to offer today’s aircraft technician a greater opportunity to increase his or her knowledge and skills. As professionals, it is necessary to maintain the highest level of proficiency to ensure that aircraft are dispatched safely and in the most efficient manner.

More for less
Operations and companies will be able to train more people for less dollars, but they will have to be discerning in the products they choose to purchase. Not only does the content have to be correct and up-to-date, more importantly, the disciplines of the instructional technologist will be required to ensure that the material is clearly presented, and is lively and engaging. This is a new media that requires careful planning to ensure success. Simply converting existing material to an e-learning format will not exercise all of the capabilities available with this type of presentation.
Technicians may resist this new technology at first but eventually they will realize that distance training provides another avenue for keeping their knowledge current and potentially providing the just-in-time type of assistance that will increase efficiency. E-learning is not a panacea, but rather a powerful tool to supplement the technician’s ability to learn what they need, when they need it.