Training Moves With the Times

Shorter sessions, many online, augment traditional delivery.

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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Topics include: energy management best practices, energy system instrumentation and controls, theory of steam generation, emission control and ash handling, pumping systems and steam distribution.

"Getting this material through instructor-led training — or anywhere else — would cost significantly more," contends Dan McGonegle, industrial skills manager, DuPont Training Solutions.

The Vendor View
"Our customers are looking for improved proficiency and productivity from their staff. For me the challenge is how to present the right curriculum — possibly in multiple languages and multiple locations — at the same time as delivering a consistent learning program," says Michele Triponey, senior vice president, global customer support and training, AspenTech, Burlington, Mass.

One of the newest demands she faces is for partnered, certified training programs. "We are working with five customers in different countries on such programs now. Two of these are major chemical operators, one in China and one in Venezuela. In effect, we are working together to create tests that can then be used by the companies' own trainers — i.e., we are customizing our own materials for their situations. Both of these companies are in emerging markets and they don't want to have to re-invent the wheel when it comes to training."

Since 2005 AspenTech has produced webinars on more than 60 topics. Recently it's been including more speakers from customers, who outline how and why they used a particular solution and the benefits realized. Each event is designed to last just an hour.

"The vast majority of companies can't send people on two-, three- or four-day courses in this economic climate and our feedback on webinars is very positive indeed. They are detailed enough to really give an insight into how to solve a particular problem using a particular tool," explains Sanjeev Mullick, director, product marketing.

All webinars are recorded and available on-demand, worldwide, 24/7.

In addition, AspenTech now offers five-minute-long online sessions that focus on how a certain feature of a product works. "We find that this is long enough to get across a core message, with links then on how to find out more information," says Mullick.

The company also is seeing a rise in demand for lunch-and-learn sessions. "More and more companies want just-in-time training, often in a specific aspect of a product. This is the new requirement that we are trying to cater for. There is a definite trend towards modularization. Gone are the days when staff could spend days and even weeks out of the office being trained," adds Vikas Dhole, vice president, engineering product management.

It's a similar story at Honeywell. "What's happening now is a shift towards web-based training, driven by economic realities. However, the bottom line is still that you will have a preferable experience if you come to a training center — you can get away and focus on learning. One of the issues that we have seen with web-based training is interruptions. Because you are at work, people assume that they can do this [interrupt]," says Tim Wyse, operations manager, Honeywell Automation College, Phoenix, Ariz.

Nevertheless, earlier this year the company rolled out the first of its new web-based training full-course packages (short modules have been available for some time). The training mainly focuses on the Experion process knowledge system. An instructor monitors each course, which all take a week. Virtual lab sessions can be accessed 24/7 via a remote server.

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