Technology in the Fast Lane

Safe driving can be taught, of course. And the Internet offers a great way to do it.

WE live in a fast-paced society where the world is virtually at our fingertips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The popularity of everything from fast food to video on demand, to gas stations with pay-at-the-pump options, has spoiled us. We are a society that feeds on immediate gratification--we want what we want, when we want it.

It's no different in the workplace. Because today's economic climate is filled with corporate downsizing, the remaining employees within these organizations face increased responsibilities in their jobs. Fortunately, technological advancements can help these employees to be more productive and efficient in handling the increased workload.

An emerging trend is the increasing popularity of online learning. According to a survey conducted by Knowledge Anywhere in April 2002, approximately 42 percent of U.S. corporations are utilizing online learning to train and educate their employees. A similar survey from InformationWeek revealed that more than 50 percent of the IT executives who were surveyed ranked the implementation of distance learning as a key priority for their company's success.

With businesses focused on reducing costs,and simultaneously facing the need to cross-train or retrain employees for their new responsibilities, online learning is an attractive alternative to traditional classroom settings for a variety of reasons.

No Trainer Required
With online learning, the physical cost of a trainer--either in-house or outsourced--is nonexistent. There are no salaries to pay, no benefits to cover, and no trainers' fees from outsourced companies.

Online learning also provides a consistent level of training for your employees, compared to trainers who have developed their own unique style, pace, and learning methods.

Travel Costs Eliminated
Whether your company has employees throughout the city or across the country, online learning alleviates the problems associated with training a group of geographically dispersed employees.

Because online learning is accessible from just about anywhere in the world, there are no travel costs to pay, for either the trainer or the trainees. Not only does this result in the direct savings from a travel budget, but it also avoids the indirect costs of productivity and time away from the office.

Flexible Schedules
Online training programs offer an unparalleled level of flexibility that can accommodate even the busiest employee.

The self-paced learning format of online learning allows training to be integrated into the workday without disrupting the productivity of the employees or their department. Resolving this training/workload conflict creates a win-win situation: The company meets its training goals without sacrificing productivity, and the employees appreciate the any time, anywhere approach that enables them to choose when and where to complete their training requirements.

Increased Learning Potential
In traditional classroom settings, employees tend to daydream about places they would rather be, things they need to do, and the workload that awaits them back at the office. Online learning keeps employees engaged in the training process by interacting with each employee on a one-to-one basis.

Because employees have to complete the course for themselves, without relying on one or two students in the class to keep the course moving, there is greater potential to learn and recall the materials presented.

'Just-in-Time' Training
With no schedules to worry about and no trainers to book ahead of time, you are able to create an environment of just-in-time training--what you need, when you need it.

Not only is this convenient and cost-effective, but studies have shown that training on demand is more effective than training on schedule. By presenting employees with the skill sets they need, when they need them, they can put the training to use immediately.

A recent addition to the training programs offered online is driver safety training, also known as defensive driving. At a time when companies are actively seeking creative methods for cutting costs and reducing liability to boost profitability and longevity, a corporate driver safety program is an often overlooked but highly effective method for achieving these goals.

Although online driver safety programs are relatively new, they are rapidly gaining popularity with both individuals and businesses for their flexibility and cost-effectiveness. Online driver safety programs combine text with graphics, streaming videos, and interactive animations to engage students in the learning process. To ensure that students comprehend the materials presented in the lessons, validation questions appear throughout the course. If questions are answered incorrectly, the correct answer appears to reinforce the material in the student's mind.

How to Choose the Right Vendor
Choosing the right vendor is essential, because not all online driver safety programs are created equal. If it is within your budget, arrange to tour the company's facilities and meet with the management, instructors, and customer support representatives.

Determine their levels of professionalism and commitment to customer service by observing the working environment, the way they treat their students, and how they handle students' questions and concerns. When evaluating potential providers, there are three critical areas for evaluation: technical commitment, customer service commitment, and value-added services.

A high level of technical commitment is critical to the effectiveness of your training program. Find out what the company does to protect data security and minimize site downtime. Ask about their hardware, system monitoring, backup systems, and database backup procedures. Also, ask how many students the site can handle simultaneously.

While online learning provides a highly interactive experience for the student, it should not be completely devoid of all human interaction. Make sure the company has a toll-free number your employees can call for technical and course assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Be sure to ask how many licensed instructors and customer support representatives they have on staff, as well as the type and frequency of training they receive.

Ask whether the company provides any value-added services for corporate customers, such as a single point of contact, monthly invoicing, progress reports, or corporate summaries. Ask, too, for copies of your employees' feedback forms so you can evaluate the quality and effectiveness of your online training program.

By combining the best business practices with the latest advancements in technology, companies are able to stretch their training budgets and offer employees a greater variety of training courses. We're now working and living in the technological fast lane . . . staying ahead of the game is your ticket to success.

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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