Today education and training materials are more readily available and accessible to more people than ever before. A computer and an Internet connection are all the requirements needed to access the best courses and instructors in almost any field of endeavor. There is an explosion of over-the-Internet opportunities for training. The heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration and plumbing trades are no exceptions.
A huge advantage of training on the Internet is convenience. It not only saves time, but money — something that everyone is interested in doing these days. Now training can take place on the student's schedule without the cost of travel or time away from the job.
There is no lack of educational material or programs to enroll in. Manufacturers, trade associations, educational institutions, distributors and professional educators are turning out digital material at an ever-increasing rate. The computer has made it possible to produce quality documents and events in record time, making them available to almost everyone instantaneously. But, along with this advance in the use of digital technology comes several challenges. Even though the tools are being made available, many of those who would benefit from the training have not adapted to this new media. A technician who spends long days in the field often has minimum exposure to a computer. Sitting at a computer may be far more intimidating than sitting in a classroom.
Most young technicians have grown up in a computer world and are far more familiar with computers than the established generation. For them, a future of Internet acquired training is quite conceivable. On the other hand, a larger percentage of industry workers have had to adapt to this change in technology. Many have not made the transition. Acquainting this segment of the industry with the ease and practical advantage of utilizing a computer to attain training is an obstacle that new online technology must overcome.
A second challenge comes with the abundance of material. With so much being made available through the Internet, searching for the appropriate course, webinar or text can become a daunting task in itself, even for the computer savvy user. After an extensive search for a training program, there is often no way of knowing if the course or material fits the student's requirements. While the course, or access to training material may save time, the search can eat up far more than what was saved in the training itself.
Assuming that the first two challenges are overcome, a third challenge adds to the difficulty of implementing this rapidly expanding media. That is the challenge of compatibility. Not all computers treat all Internet acquired files the same. Once a person becomes familiar with locating and obtaining educational and training materials from the Internet, they may discover their computer is not capable of reading or displaying the information they just paid good money to access. Not only is this frustrating, it is another waste of valuable time that Internet training is designed to save.
At this point, one might be asking, with all these problems, is it worth the effort? When it works, and it does most of the time, Internet training will meet and exceed expectations. There is no question an up-front learning curve exists, but once the basics of interfacing with a computer and the Internet are mastered, a world of education and training opportunities are created.
For those who prefer a classroom experience or have no desire to interface with a computer, the Internet can still provide some amazing opportunities that have only recently become feasible. As an example, a wholesale distributor or local trade association chapter can, with the aid of a computer, Internet connection and data projector, host a class taught by a leading educator for a fraction of the cost of having that speaker actually present physically. In some cases, the speaker can even interact with the students over the Internet, even though he may be teaching from the other side of the country. Whether it is a live seminar broadcast over the Internet that's projected on a screen for the class, or a recorded seminar, the class gets the benefit of the classroom experience without the expense of travel, time and an onsite appearance of a quality speaker.
The purpose of this ongoing column is to both educate the trades about the use of the Internet for training and to help guide the decision making process when it comes to selecting appropriate material. Each month, I will explain various aspects of utilizing Internet technology as well as review some of the fine training materials that are available from all across the industry. I will explain Internet terms in plain English and what you need to successfully access some of the finest educational opportunities available. Together, we will take the mystery out of the Web and master the online world so you can get the most out of your Internet training experience.
Lawrence Drake is president of Teal Intl. Corp., which hosts www.heatlibrary.com, a Web site that gathers digital training materials from all across the heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration and plumbing fields, and makes it available to organizations and individuals. He can be contacted at [email protected] or (970) 774-6568.