Imagine trying to gather a group of dealers or remote employees in
one location once or twice a year and teach them about your
upcoming product line. Chances are that by the time they returned
from the flight home, they had already forgotten most of the
information they learned, or worse - the information was outdated.
In the past, Toshiba America Business Solutions used technology to
improve training, but in-person trainings or classes were often
still unavoidable. That's not the case anymore. The latest
e-learning and web conferencing tools offer a better way to educate
dealers around the country who need to quickly understand how to
use and explain feature-rich products like printers, fax machines,
and computer scanners.
Toshiba decided several years ago to move training away from
classrooms. Dealers were receptive to a change, so we started to
switch the bulk of training from in-person seminars and classes to
the web. The thinking was that we could enhance training, as well
as make life and work easier for our dealers.
It was the right move. Toshiba now offers a blended approach to
education with the "CEM" approach: We combine the classroom,
e-learning, and mobile learning.
The new approach is simple. A virtual classroom can be accessed via
laptop computer with an Internet connection and a few mouse clicks.
Dealers and marketing professionals and even consumers can quickly
study new product introductions and instructions, touch base with
network support staff, and download materials like podcasts,
spreadsheets, and brochures. Materials are also available on our
public website for anyone to access. Instead of traveling across
the state or even the country for a training session and coming
back with a box of lessons and notes, dealers can keep
instructional material handy on a computer.
The improvement has been significant. The old method of training
was costly and shipping timely training and product information to
employees and dealers often met with delays. But now, all dealers
need to do is set aside an hour of time, register on Toshiba's
portal and sit at a computer for their lesson. It's simple, cost
efficient, and the material is retained.
The change wasn't a visionary move, but rather a realization that a
blended approach to education was crucial for the 21st century. By
using web conferencing and other e-learning solutions, dealers can
take classes at 8 a.m. in different time zones and at their own
pace. E-learning is as much of an investment in the future as
research to make better products.
How Toshiba got started
Toshiba has always been an early adopter of new technologies. We
began using compact discs to store training material years before
other companies, and we have always tried to streamline and
simplify training. We were an early believer in what web
conferencing and e-learning could do for business.
Toshiba works with roughly 350 dealers in the United States and
almost 3,500 subsidiaries--all of which need up-to-the minute
training and information. Unfortunately, in-person training cost
both the dealers and Toshiba money, fuel, and time that could be
better spent on nuts-and-bolts business. E-learning allows us to do
away with those expenses and hassles and focus on what matters.
For starters, it's challenging to get as many as 500 employees from
around the country into one room for days of compliance training or
a seminar on the latest line of copiers. We implemented a solution
based on Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro, which offered a seamless
e-learning experience in addition to the ability to host live web
conferences. What used to be a long training session is now a
series of 15-to-30 minute online sessions. Switching to this course
of action also ensures an experience that is as close as possible
to a classroom.
Many dealers that attend training must comply with Six Sigma
methodology, which is a set of management standards meant to
heighten employee expertise and improve business. With the latest
tools, a seven-hour in person class has been split into three,
45-minute e-learning sessions. In addition, most of the computer
tools needed for online classes were easily integrated into
seminars. Acrobat Connect Pro, for example, can work with Microsoft
PowerPoint and offers video via Adobe Flash Player that can be
played on almost every computer. So virtually any type of content
can be worked into a presentation or online class.
Remote training and presentation
The e-learning approach has been adopted quickly and is freeing up
time so Toshiba can work on what's most important to our business:
prospecting and sales. Users participate in an average of 10 live
courses per week - sometimes up to five or six sessions a day. The
number of three- or four-day training sessions has been cut in half
in lieu of online sessions.
Dealers aren't the only people who benefit. The latest tools also
are used throughout the company: Marketing introduces new products
and organizes product launches and HR is run training sessions on
the web. Content developers are able to easily create and update
Toshiba training materials so dealers and others are up to date.
The company even handles all of product launch pieces in-house,
reducing the development time from about two weeks to roughly a
The problems have been minimal for those particpating. All it takes
to participate is clicking on a URL. And dealers don't have to add
anything to their computers to attend a session - they can simply
log in and begin learning.
Reduced time, improved business
Toshiba's goal is to keep dealers educated and make sure that have
everything they need to do their jobs well and teach customers
about our products with little hassle. The numbers speak for
themselves. Toshiba has cut the time spent on compliance training
time by a third. We've reduced Six Sigma training from seven onsite
hours to three 45-minute online modules. And we've taken what in
the past would have been a daylong seminar and turned it into a
multi-day interactive webinar.
Perhaps just as important, we haven't lost the human touch.
Ultimately, business is about personal relationships, and our
e-learning tools help us make sure relationships are still a part
of what we do. We are able to facilitate face-to-face meetings with
web conferences - and we're able to spend more time with our
dealers because e-learning tools eliminate geographic boundaries.
E-learning has helped our customers buy from someone who is
informed through every step of an important purchase. It's not only
made work easier but it's improved every aspect of our business.