With the current need for more detailed and sophisticated worker training and the increased cost of employee travel, the Internet can deliver yet one more solution for MRO professionals: distance learning.

Once scoffed at by the most venerable academic institutions, almost every major university now has a distance learning initiative in place. Furthermore, the selection of courses and quality of education continue to improve.

Early efforts in distance learning were CD-ROM-based training courses made available on the Internet. New software and better bandwidth now allow instructor-led courses that include live voice transmission, question-and-answer sessions, and testing and review capabilities.

Recently, several companies began to offer industry-related courses over the Internet. For instance, Virtual Workshops was created by Dupont to deliver training throughout their worldwide operations while keeping costs extremely low. They found the method so effective that they decided to roll out the service as an independent business unit. Their Web site -- http://www.virtual-workshops.com -- now offers courses about reliability, maintenance, manufacturing, energy, and safety. The well-organized courses are taught by an impressive group of instructors.

Smaller companies are providing Internet learning, as well. For instance, combustion safety training courses are offered at http://www.combustionsafety.com through CEC Consulting. Also, Plant Support & Evaluation -- http://www.plantsupport.com -- offers steam system training. Both Internet sites provide training to individual clients for specific applications.

In a tight job market, companies that offer on-going training have significant advantages over those that do not, because most employees view training as a desired fringe benefit. Kelly Paffel, president of Plant Support and Evaluation, states, "We have seen companies cutting back on employee travel, especially for operators and maintenance staff. We are committed to using whatever technologies are available to ensure that our audience continues to receive the highest quality training available."

Many companies are using on-line training for customer support. One example is http://www.mpulsecmms.com -- MPulse Web Tutor's training site. MPulse is a CMMS software company that now offers courses delivered on demand and scheduled to fit into the client's agenda. This new interactive method of teaching allows the instructor to present the information using live software, while answering questions as they arise.

Another on-line training clearinghouse is http://www.edupoint.com -- Edupoint's Web site. However, we find their site to be a little more difficult to use. If you're interested in accessing a directory of industrial course providers, https://reliabilityweb.com deserves a visit.

Computer-related courses abound on the Internet and range from http://www.click2learn.com -- Click2Learn's free site -- to http://www.knowledgenet.com -- KnowledgeNet's sophisticated site.

You can even arrange to deliver your own training at http://www.placeware.com or http://www.webex.com for free or at a very low cost. The entry-level services are basic and easy to use. To deliver more sophisticated workshops, you can subscribe on a per-attendee basis.

The advantages of Internet learning are clear: time savings, travel cost reduction, wider and more focused global student interaction, and often one fee for as many people as you can fit into your conference room! Internet training is here to stay, and as bandwidth increases to allow better voice and video transmission, you will see even more on-line training courses.

Simple computer-based training, usually run directly from a CD-ROM on a local computer, offers many of the same advantages as Internet training. Coastal Skills Training -- http://www.coastal.com -- offers a huge library of industrial training courses. Likewise, Universal Technologies -- http://www.unitecinc.com -- offers courses on condition monitoring, alignment, and other mechanical subjects.

If you know of a good on-line training resource, please e-mail it to us so we can post it on our Web site.

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