Innovative designs, high-quality products, fast turnaround! Sound familiar? Design engineers are continually pressured to bring better products to market while shortening design cycles. Unfortunately, they are hindered by complex product design processes and difficult-to-use product development tools requiring a high investment in on-going training. While classroom training has been the dominant training method for many years, it does have its major drawbacks, like the time spent away from work for weeks, the expenses due to this loss of productivity, plus travel costs. But potentially the biggest drawback is the ineffectiveness of the training because the schedules, curriculum, and content are defined by the training vendor, not the design engineers. Now is the time for e-learning.
Surprisingly, most people still think of e-learning as merely electronic pages that look like books, delivered in a "read and learn" scenario. However, the full potential of e-learning is just now beginning to emerge, thanks to the power of the interactive Internet, and rich media such as self-paced workbooks, CBT, and CD-ROM. E-learning is not new—leading telecommunication, financial, and professional services companies have successfully leveraged e-learning to train their employees for career advancement. Studies have shown that when employees are given the capabilities, time, and freedom to build their own skills through e-learning, most increase their skills far beyond the required levels, and at a much faster rate.
However, in the design engineering world, training is a different challenge. In most cases, by the time a design engineer masters a tool, either a new tool or a new version of the existing tool is introduced, requiring a new learning cycle and additional time away from work. This leads to project delays and frustration. An effective e-learning program would address these challenges and empower design engineers to accelerate their time to productivity and stay current with new product versions, resulting in higher employee satisfaction.
To be successful, e-learning must be built into the product from the beginning, and take advantage of the combined power of the Internet and the vast storehouse of expertise and best practices within the industry. The overall program should offer e-seminars, job techniques and tips, practical examples, interactive exercises, and much more, all astutely combined to make e-learning effective and interesting. And it should be completely customizable, enabling the design engineers to tailor their learning environment and curriculum to their specific needs.
In summary, manufacturers today must bring distinctive, innovative, high-quality products to market faster than the competition. To help accomplish this, design engineers must continually improve their product design proficiency. While software vendors have focused on improving product functionalities, the next breakthrough will come from improving the ease of learning of these products. This can best be achieved through an e-learning program that is comprehensive yet flexible, provides depth and relevance, and is fully customizable. To be successful, e-learning should enable users to learn at their own pace, on their own terms and timeframe, and still provide very high-quality content. This is what e-learning is all about—more efficient ways of sharing knowledge with people.