Online training becoming an attractive alternative for distributors

We all know that customers are looking for solutions that will cut down on travel costs, thanks to the rising cost of fuel. But for resellers, too, travel costs are becoming prohibitive – particularly when it involves training technicians on new technologies and solutions. Is it really worth flying across the country or to the States for a day or two of training?

After all, it’s not just the cost of travel. There are also costs related to lost productivity, since employees are out of the office, typically during working hours.But training technicians – particularly on high-end or complex technologies – is not only necessary, but also ongoing. Resellers have to continue to invest in their people if they want to keep up with the trends and stay competitive. The need for training – and related costs – isn’t a one-time deal.

This is why we could see online training courses and certifications really start to pick up. Of course, the concept of e-learning has been around for a couple of decades – it’s certainly nothing new. But it has often taken a backseat to live training. After all, there is something to be said for actually being there, being able to touch and feel the technology, being able to talk to people face-to-face. It’s hard to replace a conversation over a cup of coffee – unless, of course, that cup of coffee is costing you thousands of dollars.

So we’ll start to see vendors and their distribution partners offer more comprehensive training alternatives. Ingram Micro, for example, is rolling out a whole whack of online training courses, certifications and virtual labs along with a lineup of AIDC/POS offerings through subsidiary VPN Dynamics.

According to the distie, partners will be able to expand their geographic reach and services portfolio – through installation and maintenance, as well as wireless networking site surveys – without adding a lot of costs to their business.

But the other aspect that will keep costs under control is its Live Online training courses, certifications and virtual labs, offered by a range of networking, security and virtualization manufacturers. Classes are taught in real time, with a limit of six people per class; there’s also 24 hours of “sandbox” time provided to demo the equipment.

Despite the lack of face-to-face communication, there are documented benefits of e-learning. THINQ’s Research Department found that e-learning can increase the return-on-investment for training by 40 to 60 per cent, both in terms of overall cost savings and average time savings. Also, it offers a 60 per cent faster learning curve than traditional instruction.

Throw in fuel savings, and it’s almost a no-brainer. But it still won’t appeal to everyone, so live training isn’t going away either (in the case of Ingram’s new online options, participants who aren’t satisfied can retake the class in person in Santa Clara, Calif.). Distributors are in the best position to offer the best of both worlds, from a range of vendors.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Vawn Himmelsbach
Vawn Himmelsbach
Is a Toronto-based journalist and regular contributor to IT World Canada's publications.

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