Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2001   by CARS Magazine

College Instructors Reap Benefits of Interactive Distance Learning

Jim Kerr, Instructor of Automotive Service Technology at Saskatchewan's Kelsey Institute, has provided below a first-hand account of how CARS interactive distance learning (IDL) is helping keep instru...

Jim Kerr, Instructor of Automotive Service Technology at Saskatchewan’s Kelsey Institute, has provided below a first-hand account of how CARS interactive distance learning (IDL) is helping keep instructors current.

New automobile technology is being thrown at us at an ever-increasing pace. I know! After repairing cars and teaching new automotive technology for 25 years, I find almost every new model that rolls into our shop has features, controls, or new components that I don’t fully understand.

Electronic controlled transmissions, fuel vapour recovery systems, and winter ice radial tires are just some examples of technology that technicians and service advisors must deal with on a regular basis. Learning how to diagnose and repair vehicles can’t be left to trial and error methods; the “error” occurs too often! Fortunately, there are several ways to get the latest information.

The automobile manufacturers provide technical training, but you have to be working at the dealership to access their training. Aftermarket parts suppliers and tool companies offer training seminars; some are good but others are nothing more than thinly disguised sales pitches. Colleges offer upgrading courses, but they may not be offered when or where you need them. Along came CARS IDL with readily available and up-to-date technical information.

IDL is the acronym for Interactive Distance Learning and CARS has the system up and running across the country. The training is delivered by satellite transmission directly to the workplace and the students can respond to the live broadcasts with a special telephone keypad; hence the term “Interactive”.

The training is designed for use by industry. Canadian Tire and Midas are a couple of the companies that are using the CARS IDL system to train their service personnel, with courses designed specifically for their needs. My exposure to IDL training began when CARS installed a system in the Automotive Technology instructor’s offices at SIAST Kelsey Campus in Saskatoon. The satellite dish was bolted on the roof, the receiver, VCR, and television were connected, and we were ready to go.

Our IDL system is used to keep the automotive instructors current. These days it is hard to stay ahead of the students but the CARS IDL broadcasts are one way that helps! The broadcast schedule is available from the CARS web site and we keep the schedule directly in front of the television. Programs are typically one to two hours in length and the subject matter is as diverse as the automobile industry. They may deal with topics such as customer relations, tire technology, fuel injection, or ABS brakes. Programs are usually repeated so training times are convenient.

The CARS IDL set-up for our college is slightly different than those used by industry. Instructors have access to all training programs, not just those for a specific company. CARS is helping keep instructors current. Secondly, the special interactive keypad is not connected. Instead, we can communicate with CARS before or after the broadcasts to ask about topics that could be covered during the next broadcast.

So how good does it work? After only a few months, I am hearing instructors discuss technology they viewed during the training. We video tape all broadcasts and instructors sign out tapes for viewing at their convenience. I have viewed several programs and have learned something from every one.

IDL has several advantages. Training is delivered to the work site; you don’t have to travel to attend a course. Courses are short: one to two hours, so a full day of productive work is not lost, and with tight training budgets, the cost of IDL is reasonable. Businesses regularly invest in shop tools necessary to repair new cars. Training on how to use new tools effectively is every bit an important the tool itself. CARS Interactive Distance Learning is one training tool that helps us keep up with the rapidly changing world of automotive technology.