A Head Start on Year Two

A Head Start on Year Two

Once the Year One goals were met, our team got started on Year Two. While our primary goal for the second year was only to convert 20 percent of the remaining content to technology-based training, many of the courses being addressed would require time-consuming custom development. By starting in the early months of Year One, we gave ourselves room to fail and learn lessons before the team was expected to produce results.

For Year Two, our team targeted courses that were either of high priority to the engineering and manufacturing groups, which made up 80 percent of the population, or those courses that were in constant demand, such as project-management training.

This was the first time our newly developed front-end work processes were put into action. For every course, we had to decide what tool to use, how to deliver the content, which vendor or vendors would be in charge of developing it, how much we were willing to spend , and when we expected the content to be completed. During this time we discovered that each vendor had a unique process for creating content, some of which were more appealing then others.

There was a distinct learning curve for all of us as the team got used to new systems of course development and determined which vendors had the best approach. For example, the team discovered early on that we preferred the vendors who delivered streams of modules throughout the development process to the vendors who delivered large chunks after weeks of work. The streamed process let us see where the project was going before it was too late to make changes, and it familiarized everyone on the team with the content. After a few courses, Purington told all vendors that we expected content to be delivered in this style.

One of the first custom courses our team developed was training on electromagnetic interference (EMI). Because few of the engineers fully understood the problems associated with EMI, new-product designs regularly failed their final tests because they caused EMI with associated avionics equipment. In an airplane cockpit EMI can be disastrous, and the product redesigns as a result of this problem cost the company millions of dollars annually. Up to that point, few engineers were getting training on this critical problem, which was directly affecting the company's success rates, because management didn't recognize the problem as being one that involved training ”in the old model, the only way training happened was if a manager requested it.

To remedy this problem, one of our SMEs and a learning consultant worked with a vendor called Strategic Interactive, and in three months they created a twelve- hour CD-ROM-based EMI course. Within six months of our rolling out the course, more than 1,300 engineers were trained and the EMI problem disappeared. It would have taken thirteen years to train that many engineers on this subject in the classroom. The development teams have improved their productivity and reduced their failure rates, and Rockwell Collins now accepts RFPs with EMI restrictions.

Project-management training was also targeted as a high-demand course that our team prioritized for conversion to technology-based training. Historically, Rockwell Collins delivered the course in the classroom ten times a year, spending $300,000 per year on instructor fees, and the learning and development group was still never able to meet demand for the training. This was an obvious candidate for self-paced e-learning.

For approximately $240,000, a vendor called Mentergy created an online version of the course with the help of the instructor who had developed the classroom model. In exchange for his expertise, Rockwell Collins gave him full rights to the computer-based version to market as he saw fit. The new course is now accessible 24/7, takes ten hours to learn even more skills and knowledge, and has been completed by more than 750 employees . The real power of this course and others is the ability to revisit the material as often as needed. Neither of us can think of a training event we have attended in twenty-five years where participants had the opportunity to apply all the skills and knowledge learned as soon as they were back on the job. The beauty of e-learning, if designed correctly in self-contained objects, is the ability to relearn.