Bill Wade


Leading Companies Seek Cost, Efficiency Advantages Provided By E-Learning

Four Surveys Highlight How E-Learning Is Expanding in the Aftermarket Work Force

By Kelly Holliday
Project Manager, Wade&Partners

Online training is quickly becoming the most efficient way to educate employees in almost every phase of work for distributors, service dealers and manufacturers.

In a recent study conducted by eLearning Guild, asynchronous training (courses taken online) has become the second most popular approach to learning and training for small businesses, after only print-based materials.

Because information available in the aftermarket nearly doubles every five years, parts proliferation has become secondary to information proliferation. Note:

  • In 1947, 85,000 books were in print. There were 357 publishers.
  • In 2000, 1.3 million were in print. There were 49,000 publishers. 160,000 were published last year alone.
  • At least 50,000 pages of new aftermarket catalog data are available to the distributor counterman each year.

Readers May Be Leaders, But...

The average teenager has been exposed to an average of 5 hours of television per day. Average SAT reading scores are actually declining in constant terms.

The interactivity of the Internet is quickly becoming the preferred method of education and training delivery … including votech, high school and college. 82% of surveyed small businesses now say that they had often or sometimes used E-learning (Internet based) training in the past year.

Through an aftermarket field survey of distributors and suppliers, Wade&Partners found the primary advantages of utilizing e-learning most often mentioned to be:

  • Cost Efficient. The cost of training (per user) goes down exponentially as more learners use the E-learning course material.
  • Increased Competence. When employees know more, problems are either less likely to come up or they will become easier to solve.
  • Convenience. Employees are more willing to take the time to participate in training programs when they are able to do it wherever and whenever they want.
  • Increased Company Loyalty. When a company is willing to invest in further training for their employees, the employees will begin to feel a sense of commitment that goes both ways between the employer and employee.

Where Electronic Learning Came From...

E-learning has advanced in leaps and bounds since its early days as the PLATO system, developed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Starting out in 1960, the PLATO I ran on the locally built ILLIAC I computer and included a TV for display and a special keyboard to navigate the system’s complicated menus.

It was a basic drill-based system and allowed students to bypass lessons they already understood. However, only one user could be on at a time to use this learning program, which ran on the million dollar campus computer.

Where Electronic Learning Has Gone

Forty-seven years after PLATO I first ran, e-learning is a formidable training/teaching instrument. The worldwide e-learning industry is worth over $ 51 billion.

One of the reasons that the industry has grown so much is mobility of computing power. Because classes can be taken on company or personal computers, or they can be downloaded for use in video iPods or hand-held sales devices, students or employees can review as often as needed.

Additionally, assessing an employee’s actual competence to perform an operation, rather than just seeing how much knowledge of the system he or she has, can be accomplished through utilizing e-learning simulations.

Simulations provide access for an employee to actually use the program but without the error risk. If an employee performs the operation wrong there is no harm done.

Adult Students Provide the ‘Sweet Spot’ for Online Training

The aftermarket is increasingly faced with a bi-modal distribution of experienced managers, sales people and technicians, at a time when competition for talented entry-level people is intensifying, especially at the store level.

Another recent survey by Olsten Staffing Services showed that executives estimated that 37% of their employees lack fundamental math, reading and writing skills.

The table below illustrates how many people can take advantage of and benefit from the online high school, votech and college courses:

Educational Attainment of Adults, 25 to 44 Years of Age

No High School Diploma
High School or Equivalent
Some College
Bachelors or Higher
White (Non-Hispanic)
Black (Non-Hispanic)
All Hispanic
Hispanic –US- born
Hispanic Foreign-Born

Source: Current Population Survey, March Supplement, 2004-2006

Three of Four Are Ready for Online

According to the Noel-Levitz 2005 National Adult Learners Satisfaction-Priorities Report seventy-seven percent of people would now consider online education. The report found that some of the important factors that go into considering and finally choosing an online university can be:

  • Ability to transfer credits
  • Reputation of institution
  • Ability to design own program
  • Availability of financial assistance
  • Flexible pacing for completing a program

Every Marketing Dime Depends Upon the Least Common Denominator

Automotive and heavy truck technology is constantly changing and improving and new products are coming out everyday. When these new and unknown items come out onto the market, technicians and distributors need to be ready with skills to install, troubleshoot and service.

E-learning is especially efficient when factory sales representatives, distributors and technicians are located in several different locations. It allows them to take the courses without traveling to the main office at a set time for a training seminar, saving time and hassle, as well as company travel expense.

Additionally, new employees can receive the training immediately and become productive faster – there is not wait for the next class or for the factory trainer to come around. At the counter level, it is a big step from “Did you want fries with that?”

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