Innovative Methods of Instruction Take Training Out of the Classroom

No more pencils, nor more books, as education moves into online and hands-on domains.

By Dan Hebert, PE, Senior Technical Editor

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Don’t we all remember dreary days spent in a classroom listening to a teacher drone on and on? Perhaps the main cause of your boredom was that the instructor was teaching at the pace of the slowest student. Or maybe you couldn’t make the connection between the theory of the classroom and practice in your life. In light of these issues, new methods of instruction, chief among them online and hands-on training, have gained favor.

Online training has many advantages over classroom instruction, chief among them the ability of the student to move along at a preferred pace (Table 1). No more waiting for the instructor to explain the basics to newbies while advanced students struggle to stay awake, as online courses are paced by the student.

Hands-on training goes more in-depth and confers advantages that online instruction can’t, but has its challenges (Table 2). The main selling point for hands-on training is that it does what no other training can: closely simulate the real world.

Online Instruction

Online training continues to grow in popularity from college campuses to corporate environments.

Automation professionals are joining the online party. “I’ve taken advantage of some amazing free online lectures from MIT and find them to be of great benefit,” says Laurence Durack, lead electrical engineer at Electroimpact in Mukilteo, Wash. “In some ways they are better than sitting in class as you can stop and repeat any points you miss. I can see a transformation of the whole education process with tools such as this, and I feel the existing approach is ripe for overhaul.”

Electroimpact builds complete automation assembly systems for commercial aircraft wings, riveting machines and tools for wing panel and fuselage assembly, advanced fiber placement machines, robotic assembly systems and spacecraft transportation equipment (Figure 1).

Learn More: How to Combat a Lack of Fundamentals in EE Degree Training

Scott Hendrickson, CEO of Olympus Controls, a systems integrator serving machine builders from its base in Seattle, also sees the value of online instruction. “We’ve looked at online training programs through a company called BlueVolt, which delivers a Web-based learning management system. Its cloud-based platform delivers professional training programs on just about any machine automation technology.”

Randy Ransom, director of training at Intelligrated, a material handling OEM in Mason, Ohio, has an interesting approach to e-learning. “Requiring students to complete online e-learning training modules prior to an instructor-led session provides a baseline of knowledge for all students,” he explains. “This allows the instructor to begin training at a deeper level since the basic concepts and terminology have already been covered. Students also tend to ask more probing questions during the instructor-led training sessions when they’ve been exposed to the initial e-learning training.”

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