It is obvious what face-to-face training is, but let’s take a moment to define online training. Online training is any type of training, information-obtaining or other means that is done by going on a computer. This means that a DVD or CD could actually fall into this category as well, but more than likely you’re going to come across two major areas of training. One may be in the form of a webinar, often put on by various manufacturers to address specific subjects or training areas. These are very beneficial and vary between 15 minutes and an hour in length. Another type of online training is the YouTube version of training. While YouTube can sometimes provide some of the latest, greatest and best information out there, it can also sometimes be a source of some of the worst, most inaccurate, opinionated, it’s-my-way-or-the-highway information presented by less than knowledgeable people. How do you tell the difference? It’s somewhat difficult because there is some very good information provided by people in blue jeans and tee shirts as well as some highly inaccurate information presented by people in professional-type technicians’ clothing in what appears to be an extremely clean garage.

It can be difficult to obtain accurate information on how to do a service procedure.

I personally remember a few years ago a Chrysler 300 that had the shift interlock not working correctly. It belonged to my sister’s son and she called to say that he was going for a job interview out of state. She asked if I could get the car fixed, that he was on his way out of town. Then he shows up in my driveway at home. What was I supposed to do? I started this procedure that, according to the reference information I had found on one of the technical service information providers, was supposed to be pretty simple. It wasn’t. So, what did I do? I went on YouTube and found out from a Chrysler technician a tip of drilling an eight-inch hole in a particular part and pushing a rod through it to release a retainer– I don’t remember what it was for, but it worked to make the job easy. So, do YouTube videos have value? Most definitely.

As a matter of fact, a major aftermarket suspension kit manufacturer constantly puts updates first on YouTube before even putting them on its own personal website. Other major aftermarket parts manufacturers have a wide variety of various online sources, either on their own branded websites or through YouTube and other technical marketing markets.

So, what works the best? There is no substitute for face-to-face training, provided the trainer is knowledgeable and the subject matter is presented in an organized and structured manner. Why? Because you can watch and observe any emphasis the instructor might put on the various aspects of the training he is presenting, plus you can usually ask questions during the presentation and receive an immediate answer, again, observing any emphasis he puts on what’s really important and what’s not.

The unfortunate part of face-to-face training is the cost. Common sense, logic and perhaps the law dictate that face-to-face training classes that are mandatory or required by a shop and attended by technicians should be paid for just as if they were working in the shop. This is not always the case with some shop owners but, depending upon the local laws and degree of what’s required, it is a consideration.

Face-to-face training may be more current than online training. If you attend a training class on an undercar subject area like the latest anti-lock brake issue that’s out there, the trainer may describe something that you have never seen or heard before and can’t actually find anywhere else because the trainer discovered it during a hands-on diagnostic procedure for a shop he visited that day. So, there’s room for both face-to-face and online training.

Some companies are developing their own online training and online-certification programs. One alignment aftermarket company, Specialty Products, Longmont, Colo., has established a certified-installer product online-training program. This program addresses the overall theory and operation of alignment, but also specifically discusses the products it has in its line, how to install them and what problems they cure. In addition, this program has an aspect to it that is a face-to-face, multi-day training at their location in Longmont, so they actually are combining both.

After looking at the total picture, let’s go back and change the headline of this article-to-be from “Face-To-Face Training Versus Online Training” to “Understanding Face-To-Face Training & Online Training & How They Fit Together to Assist You in Developing Technical Skills & Training Procedures.” It’s not really a matter of one versus the other. They’re both tools. They both have their place.

I know of shops that present online-type training programs in their lunchrooms on a weekly basis and provide lunch for the technicians while they watch these programs. Are they receiving pay while they’re sitting there eating a free lunch and watching a training program? Maybe they are and maybe they aren’t, but the fact is that for free food in a place where they can actually eat it without being disturbed for a while is not an unreasonable thing for a technician to do on his own time. If it’s required that’s one thing, but if it’s offered and you are allowed to attend, then the enticement is some quiet time and free food. It may be something worth considering. Remember that no matter what the training subject is, repair procedures in some areas are constantly evolving, particularly on some late-model vehicles. Look at some of the timing-chain installation procedures that have been recently developed for various engines. Some of the tips, tricks and techniques are much easier than what the OE manuals initially outlined. Also, in the area of torque-to-yield chassis fasteners, keeping up with what the OEs are saying and what the requirements are is somewhat difficult, but training programs have been offered addressing this specific subject area. Someone said, “It’s not one versus the other. It’s both as one together making you more successful and your company’s operation more profitable, returning a better product to your customer.”