In the second part of IRU’s interviews with members about the future of distance learning in commercial transport, we talk to Peter Hari, responsible for dangerous goods and safety at ASTAG, the Swiss Road Transport Association.
ASTAG upholds the interests of some 4,300 road transport operators in Switzerland. The Association has recently launched an e-learning pilot to enable drivers to combine online and physical training.
IRU: In your opinion, what are the main benefits of introducing Information Communication Technology (ICT) tools in driver training, compared to traditional instructor-led training?
Peter Hari: The benefits for employers are numerous: better qualified employees, less effort required in organising training, lower training costs, having an overview of the learning status of employees, easier personnel management and shorter absences from the workplace, to mention but a few.
Course participants similarly benefit from this learning style. First and foremost, they are able to study independent of time and place and at their own speed.
The financial benefit of e-learning should also not be overlooked. It offers a cost advantage of up to 38% compared to conventional courses.
How have your clients, the transport operators and drivers, welcomed this new training format?
The demand for e-learning has risen sharply in the last three years, and will continue to increase as a result of how well online training has performed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Larger companies in particular are interested in our e-learning platform: it can be used for driver training as well as for general information. All their training needs can be met in one place.
ASTAG have been running an e-learning pilot. Can you tell us more about the pilot?
ASTAG has been offering training courses for 40 years. Nowadays, information is easily available via smartphones, tablets and notebooks. We launched the e-learning pilot as a way of tapping into that change in learning styles and making our training modules more flexible. The e-learning pilot works alongside face-to-face teaching to increase overall learning success.
Thanks to online learning, employers can benefit from reduced administrative costs and can concentrate on operational core competencies.
As there is no legal basis for e-learning in compulsory driver training and further education yet in Switzerland, the ASTAG e-learning project is currently running as a pilot. However, the training courses can be credited towards compulsory periodical training.
The EU Directive states that “specific topics require hands-on training”, but ICT tools allow for increasingly realistic simulations. What are the current limits of distance learning?
For some topics, ICT tools are not yet able to replace hands-on learning – that said, e-learning still has a key role to play. For example, in the drive and rest time module, interactive online exercises are used to apply the content learned in the classroom, and classroom instruction applies the lessons learned via e-learning. Participants’ knowledge is then tested with a series of self-assessments, followed by a final test. This combination of learning methods is rated very positively among participants.
How do you see the future of distance learning in our industry?
The acceptance of e-learning is already high among companies and drivers, even among older course participants. In the younger generation, digital media are already part of everyday life. However, ASTAG is aware that personal contact, sharing experiences, and practical work are key success factors in further training, which, as we have been able to demonstrate, can be sensibly combined with e-learning.