A New Train of Thought About Training
When a world-class training program is threatened by a world-wide pandemic, the people at Yaskawa came together to protect a valuable customer resource. Now, to the team’s surprise, the new programs may stay in place.
“In March 2020, we basically stopped all of our training classes. We thought. Well, this will be temporary. Pretty soon we will be back in the classroom, teaching like we always have,” John Autero, Manager of Technical Training Services said. “We even started putting together our schedule for in-person training classes in June. Obviously, that didn’t happen.”
So, Autero and his team came together to start scheduling some large group webinars.
“Our Go-to-Webinar class sessions can easily accommodate 300 students. Which was great for making our resources available to the most people possible. The problem is those type of sessions are very webinar in style. So, you get broad reach but not a lot of in-class dialogue. No chance for the students to really ask questions,” Autero said.
“That’s when we learned we could re-create our Application Programming type factory-level classes and our Drives Road Show class using the Go-to-Training system. We call this style of training delivery “Live Online”. The Go-to-Training system works great for a class of 10-15 people at a time. It’s an open mic format, so students can fully interact with the training engineer and ask as many questions as they like. That helps a lot because we can better understand what people want to know and what they may not be getting through our instruction.”
Recreating content to work in a live online training environment isn’t as easy as it may sound.
“You’re really trying to create the basis for a virtual training class from content that was taught in person with a hands-on approach. We had to find ways to keep that interaction prominent in the classes.” Autero said.
Once the content was created, there was the matter of figuring out how to present it in a way that would keep students engaged, according to Paul Avery, senior product training engineer at Yaskawa.
“We had to learn how to interact through a camera. How to read the students. How do you tell if they’re getting the subject matter when you can’t read the room?” Avery said. “That’s especially difficult when they turn their cameras off. Sometimes people like to hide in class until they get comfortable. That’s a lot easier online. So, we had to work hard to draw them out. Get them to leave the cameras on and let go of their inhibitions.”
In-person training lends itself much more to a bonding between student and instructor, Avery explained. So, Yaskawa had to find a way to engage online.
“We do miss being around our students. We like them. It’s fun to get to know each other. It’s not just about the lessons in the classroom. We do a lot of things that create a trust and relationship with our students. Dinners. Bowling. Even just talking over a donut during a break. That’s really valuable time we can’t recreate virtually.”
So, Avery works different angles to engage virtually.
“We coax people into leaving their cameras on during training. Get them comfortable that we’re not here to expose them but help them learn. Also, there are times people come back to the screen early from break. I guess that’s our donut time,” he said.”
“Sometimes you choose to dig a little deeper into the class’s personality. It doesn’t always have to be back to work. You can tease around. Talk about things outside the topic of the class. It’s how you build trust and friends. Heck, sometimes there’s even laughter!”
Yaskawa has also maintained a lot of its hands-on discipline in the live online style of classes.
“The hands-on demo is so critical,” Autero said. “We know it’s what sets our training apart and it’s vital students get that exposure. So, we go to the extent of shipping a demo and class materials to the student’s location in advance of the session.”
The new approach has been successful with Yaskawa teaching 422 students in 2020 via the Applications Programming classes and the Roadshow class, using the live online format.
Yaskawa also offers an option where students can do their own self-paced training through its Electronic Learning Modules. eLMs are user-friendly, computer-based training lessons that are effective, time efficient, instruction that can be performed anytime or anywhere there is a computer or mobile device. This is a perfect way to get the training one needs in the least amount of time. Yaskawa offers nearly 100 eLMs that focus on drive products.
“Recently, we’ve come up with an idea to package a set of eLMs together. We plan to assemble nine to twelve eLMs in a group. Like the chapters in a book,” Avery said. “We call this format of training, “Self-Guided Learning”. Using the modules as their guide, students can access a virtual drive demo and work through the lessons on their own time and at their own pace. If they pass the certification test, they can even earn continuing education units. We’re excited about this new format. Expect to see it coming out soon.”
“I’m really proud of our work,” Autero said. “We came together as a team to create something new. This new style training class proliferated in a very short amount of time to fill a real need. It’s a new way of teaching students, a new way of doing business, and I don’t think it’s going away. And, that’s okay, because we’re just going to get better at it.”
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