Company employees, located in geographically remote regions, attend the same course, with the same instructor, at the same time.

This may seem illogical, but with the agility of modern technology and interactive webcast software, it is perfectly feasible, positively exciting and a fast-growing method of training.

IDC Technologies (in league with sister eLearning company; the Engineering Institute of Technology - EIT) trained a group of engineers and technicians, from a large oil and gas company, in offices based around the world, simultaneously - well almost! The learners were on worksites in Alaska, mainland US, Mexico, Trinidad, United Kingdom, Indonesia and in a couple of countries in the Middle East.

Our Training Manager, Kevin Baker, was approached by the client in Trinidad to run a Foundation Fieldbus course (one of the several mandatory courses within their program for new graduates).  it seemed a simple request, a common request. One of our instructors, based in the region, would fly in and conduct the training on site, once dates were agreed upon.

But the matter became more complex. Their company intranet is obviously a vibrant and effective means of communication because news of the imminent course drew the attention of a range of employees. Those based in Trinidad were the target, but personnel in distant offices also put their hands up to attend.

The EIT has been providing online programs and qualifications for some years now so instead of a leap of imagination, a mere hop was required. The potential hurdles included how to allocate the eight hours of tuition, time zone differences and the practical applications of the content in a virtual classroom.

Traditionally the Foundation Fieldbus course is scheduled on a single day and is presented over eight hours. Even with live, interactive online learning, eight hours at a stretch is a big ask (it is difficult enough in a classroom!) It was decided, therefore, to schedule the course for four hours (with a short break after the first two), on two consecutive days. By all accounts this was perfectly achievable and also gave the participants time, over-night, to consolidate learnt material and the opportunity to return with questions the following day.

To facilitate delegate attendance, alongside their work commitments and discrepant time zones, the two day option was scheduled twice, with each two day course using slightly different four hour time-slots.

The final obstacle may seem insurmountable to people unfamiliar with modern, synchronous online education and yet it has presented us with the most inspiring and exciting challenge. Our company has always prided itself on practical, hands-on training, so with the advent of our online teaching methodology retaining access to practical applications was paramount. To this end the EIT has a significant and growing range of remote laboratories which students can use during their training sessions (or afterwards, to assist them with their assignment work). Simulation software has also proved itself enormously helpful when it comes to supporting content.

As an example click HERE to view a 60 second fieldbus video:

In conclusion, it is fair to say that this ad hoc training event proved itself hugely beneficial to the client and was eminently workable for us. A larger number of employees, at a significantly lower price were trained. Delegates did not need to leave their work desks and the instructor did not need to be flown to, or accommodated near, the company site. Furthermore, our lecturer’s place of residence was of no consequence; we were able to select our global leader, a Canadian, in this field of engineering. The delegates were also able to interact and discuss the topic with their colleagues based in offices around the world, ensuring that the subject was global in its breadth.

Virtual classroom training is a powerful form of education. It is an intelligent option for more remote clients who would like to stretch their training budgets, but also presents large companies with the exceptional opportunity to improve the skills of their geographically scattered employees with little disruption to them, but with unavoidable advantages.