I recently had the experience of taking a few of Rockwell Automation’s new e-learning courses, their new, on-demand training option. As a former plant engineer it was important to me to take these courses to make sure there is value in the content, review site accessibility and functionality, and ensure the experience would be a value add to an organization and its employees. Having had the opportunity to lead a team of maintenance engineers in my past, I understand how important training is to a well-functioning plant. Plus, I don’t know how many times I would do annual reviews and ask my guys to tell me what they wanted to learn each year, overwhelmingly it would involve automation: PLCs, Drives, Motion, etc.
Rockwell’s e-learning content is designed for both beginner and seasoned engineers and technicians. There are currently fifteen courses to choose from across five technologies. Users can select from introductory courses like Logix5000 System Fundamentals to more advanced courses like Industrial Networking Advanced, with more content being released soon. The material covered in each course is the same as if it were in a classroom setting, with each section broken down into short modules.
For my first experience with the e-learning platform I enrolled in Logix5000 System Fundamentals. The course outline states that you should be able to get through all the modules in about seven hours. That’s if you went through every module without coming up for air. I would expect it to take much longer, and for me it did. The short sections allowed me to exit out and enter the training center on-demand, multiple times during the lessons. In addition to the normal course modules, there are links to additional reading materials for extra detail. Some of the additional reading material include standard user manuals, but also links to white papers on best practices. Finally, each module contains either an interactive or video tutorial, and a skills assessment. The skills assessment test makes sure you were paying attention.
The greatest benefit of the e-learning style is the flexibility to review the information on-demand and go in and out of the sections without skipping a beat. I’m sure all my fellow plant engineers and maintenance managers can agree that finding time to get your employees off the floor and into a classroom for training is very difficult. Between making sure there is ample coverage on the floor, scheduling so that all shifts receive the same training and, handling interruptions – we sometimes just never get training accomplished! Speaking of interruptions – I can attest, even being stuck at home, there were many occasions where I had to log in and out or my session got timed out. However, once I logged back in, it was easy to get to the module I was last reviewing.
I think as an interested reader you wouldn’t find me credible if I didn’t tell you what I didn’t like about the e-learning platform. First, once you pass your assessment at the end of each module if you score an 80 percent you can’t review your test and see what question you got wrong. I think we can all agree that we want to know what questions were incorrect so that we can review the material. Next, it can get a little boring if you’re just powering through all the modules. It’s not a traditional classroom where there are questions and instructor feedback so, I would suggest setting time limits of an hour max this way your teams don’t lose focus. Finally, although the tutorial sections are well put together, if you don’t have the software or a physical training module available to practice you may not get to practice what you’ve learned. I’m fortunate where I can access Studio 5000 at any time but, for some teams that just isn’t feasible.
I would not recommend it as a direct replacement for traditional classroom training, I would highly recommend Rockwell’s new e-learning platform as a supplement. The courses are well structured, have plenty of content, and are very easy to use. Rockwell’s e-learning will greatly increase the skills of a new technician or engineer and be a great resource for experienced maintenance and plant engineers. Sure, there are a few shortcomings, but the value-added benefits of reduced downtime and increasing your teams’ skills far outweigh the aforementioned areas of improvement.
Rockwell E-Learning Catalog: https://www.rumsey.com/resources/on-demand-training/