If you're looking to add some online manufacturing training at work, you're going to need to take a few things into account. You'll want to consider how they fit into your learning strategy and learning ecosystem, of course. And you'll need to think of a series of issues specifically related to online manufacturing training. But when the rubber meets the road, one of the most important things is going to be the actual online manufacturing training courses themselves.
That's what this article is intended to help with, by giving you some things to consider when you're evaluating online manufacturing training courses themselves.
You might also want to check out our free, recorded webinar titled Online Manufacturing Training that Works--How to Select Online Manufacturing Training for Your Organization.
And the guide below on selecting & using online manufacturing training may be something you find helpful!
These days, you can get online manufacturing courses in two primary delivery methods: streaming or elearning (yes, you can also probably still buy some DVDs, too, and maybe even VHSs are still on the market).
Streaming is basically the Netflix model. Go to a website, register, and watch your course or courses. Streaming sites will probably give you an option of pay-per-view or subscription for a period of a year or so, and they'll probably let you get one course, a self-picked selection of courses, or a "library" along a specific topic, like lean, quality, maintenance, or safety.
There are some real benefits to streaming. One is how easy it is.
One the other hand, there are some downsides. This includes relatively weak or non-existent support for assignments, recordkeeping, content import and creation, managing compliance-driven due dates and expiration dates, and so on.
And those weak points of streaming are what brings us to the second common way to skin the online manufacturing training onion these days: elearning courses.
Actually, elearning courses are the old trusted stand-by; it's streaming that's new.
The advantages of eLearning courses are that they can do a lot of things you can't currently do with streaming courses. They're made to work with a learning management system (LMS), and that combination of elearning courses and LMS is just as good as peanut butter and chocolate, allowing you lots of additional powers like:
If you go with the elearning option, one thing to be aware of is that not all elearning courses are the same.
That's obvious enough, but we're talking about something very specific here: elearning courses come in different formats, or standards. If you try to import an elearning course that's been published to comply with one standard, it may not work with your LMS unless your LMS is compatible with that standard.
The three primary elearning standards these day are SCORM, AICC, and xAPI (also called the Experience API, and a few years ago it was common to call it Tin Can).
The point being, if you're buying an elearning course to import into your LMS, make sure they're compatible.
SCORM is the most common elearning standard these days; AICC is a bit of an older relic, it's increasingly uncommon, and it's not even supported anymore even though you still see it around sometimes; and xAPI is the new kid on the block--it's not super-common in manufacturing, but it's fair to assume its influence will grow with time.
If this is all Greek to you, check out our What Is SCORM? article.
If you're going to buy instructional materials, you want them to work. To instruct employees. To transfer knowledge, develop skills, create behavioral changes, and help you organization reach its goals.
If so, you want to make sure those dollars your spending on online manufacturing training work. And that means the design of those manufacturing training courses are informed by, and based on, valid adult learning principles and evidence-based training practices.
Don't buy snake-oil or marketing blim-blam. Don't buy online manufacturing training that's based on learning myths or is simply ineffective.
You're hear reading about online manufacturing training, but let's face it: the idea of "manufacturing training" is largely bogus. You need training designed for your industry. For your organization. For the job roles, production processes, and job tasks that your employees perform.
So, the topics covered in the elearning courses, and the specific approach to those topics, matter.
Of course, you'll need training to assist with new employee onboarding. For EHS and quality. For maintenance. You may need training for lean manufacturing. You'll need to cover HR compliance and some critical soft skills, such as communications and working on a team. You may need to teach things like computer usage and digital skills.
And of course, you'll need training that's specific to the job tasks workers perform in your manufacturing facility on a daily basis.
Find the best match for your own manufacturing training needs. And don't forget you can make your own elearning courses as well.
Training materials should communicate to workers in a language that (1) they understand and (2) that provides more effective instructional benefits.
For point 1, If you have a multi-language workforce, are your online courses available in multiple languages?
For point 2, improving training effectiveness, check out our article on the value of training materials written in a conversation, casual manner.
It's easy to overwhelm learners. This is one of the biggest problems trainers have--cutting down training to just the essentials. If you throw to much at workers during training, all that information's going to be lost.
So it's better to give them less information--just the truly need-to-know stuff. They can always learn more later.
Focus on tightly written learning objectives, reducing training content to the absolute minimum, and more practice. Practice (and consequences and feedback) are learning accelerators.
We're visual animals. A LOT of our brains have been devoted to processing visual information.
As a result, it's smart to include visuals in your training materials. Even more, it's smart to include visuals in online training materials, since the whole idea of "online" makes sophisticated, compelling, engaging, and instructionally sound visuals easier to deliver.
Check out this article on effective graphic design in elearning for some examples.
Information and knowledge are nice. A lot of times, they're necessary pre-requisites for job performance.
But you want workers who can perform their jobs and job tasks. And as a result, you want online manufacturing training courses that help workers do just that.
Try to get courses that teach workers to perform real-life manufacturing job tasks and skills.
Training and learning opportunities are when employees should get a chance to self-assess their own knowledge level and understanding and practice performing job skills in an emotionally safe, non-threatening, low-stakes environment (and see the consequences of their decisions and performances as well as receive helpful feedback).
It's also important to test employees after training in a more serious way to measure learning as a result of the learning activity and, of course, the employee's knowledge and skill level. After all, our goal is to make sure employees know how to perform their job tasks.
Online training courses should provide practice questions so employees can practice new knowledge and skills and self-assess their level of understanding and competence as well as course-ending assessments for knowledge and skill verification purposes.
Check out our Workplace Testing Best Practices article for more on this.
It's nice to get new courses, but of course things change. So you're going to want to know how often the individual courses are changed and updated as well as how often series or libraries of courses are changed, perhaps adding new titles.
You'll want to know how that happens, why it happens, and how much that may cost (or maybe it's free?).
You'll never adopt some online manufacturing training courses and get a complete out-of-the-box training solution. So before you buy, you need to step back and think about what your organization's overall learning strategy is.
Then, you can evaluate online manufacturing training courses that you are considering to see how well they fit within that overall learning strategy you've developed to help workers develop their manufacturing work skills.
It's a mobile world. Just stop for a moment and think of all the things you do on mobile. Actually--are you reading this on mobile right now?
If you do so much on mobile already, it makes sense you'll want online manufacturing training courses that are not just compatible for viewing on mobile devices, but have been optimized for the best mobile viewing experience.
We hope this list has helped you on your search for the online training courses that will work best for your organization's learning needs. Let us know if you have any additional questions.
In addition, you may find some helpful information in our Six Steps for More Effective Manufacturing Training article.