So how has your year been so far? It’s all been a bit of a strange one to say the least hasn’t it?
Well if it’s been different for you, can you imagine trying to find ways of giving socially distant training to engineers?
I was initially furloughed at the start of lockdown, which made sense as our customers couldn’t visit our training sites and I must say I enjoyed spending a lot more time with my two children.
But I was called back to develop virtual training courses that we can provide to our customers and we’ve now been offering these for the past few weeks.
At the moment, we are going through the backlog of engineers who we couldn’t reach because of COVID-19 which is certainly keeping me busy.
But it really is great to be back in front of engineers, getting my grey cells going again, and slightly more challenging than keeping my toddler occupied!
We wanted more than just rehashed sales brochures or Powerpoint slides
One thing we decided very early on was that we had to provide something engaging and worthwhile, so we’ve worked hard to make sure that the training we offer is of real interest to the viewers. We’ve all sat through webinars that are ‘death by Powerpoint’, or just a rehash of all the sales brochures you can read yourself.
We decided that we needed to make it meaningful and have introduced mobile cameras that let me get behind and inside the heat pump, as well as ones that allow for wider shots to show and discuss things on a whiteboard.
After every course, we look at what went well, what can be improved, etc. In the early days for example, the video could be a bit jerky and we’ve also worked hard to improve the sound.
The primary concern was looking at how we could make the course content feasible online and what sort of questions could we ask. We decided to start with heat pump training and have created two courses that are working really well remotely.
The first is Ecodan design and application, where we discuss how to plan for a heat pump installation and look at ways of getting the best design for each situation. This includes the work needed on calculating heat loads and losses, the different types of heat emitters, etc.
The second course is on installation commissioning, where again, we can show the process and calculations needed, without having to get the engineers to physically touch the equipment.
Both are certified and include ongoing ‘pass or fail’ questions throughout to ensure that those watching have been paying attention and have understood the key points.
We start by introducing the Eocodan heat pump unit to explain the basics of how it works. We can then show shots from a web cam so I can move round to different parts of our showroom and focus on real, working elements of the equipment. This makes it far more real for the viewer than simply looking at a photo or a diagram.
We’ve had up to 15 attendees on each courses and the questions we ask them help determine that they’ve understood everything.
In addition to the mobile cameras that means we can show parts of the equipment, it also helped have a real white board to stand in front of, because I can show how to work out heat calculations and how much the individual elements of a room, such as windows will lose.
We’ve found it works best by taking it back to the basics and it has been really helpful having my colleague Neil Shaw on hand to change camera shots throughout. Full credit to Neil for also helping develop the content and thanks and praise also to my manager Lance Hitchins and colleague Dan Hodson who helped ensure that we achieved such useful and engaging content, and made sure we could overcome the technical challenges.
Probably the hardest thing initially was getting engagement from the live viewers but as time has gone on, I’ve found that the attendees understand that the more they contribute, the more they will get from the course.
And the feedback so far has been fantastic with several customers saying that it’s the best webinar they’ve been on.
The next step, of course, will then be getting these engineers to come to one of our 7 training centres around the country to actually see and get their hands on the equipment and that, of course is going to depend on a whole host of COVID-related factors.
Ben Bartle-Ross is a Technical Trainer on heat pumps and air conditioning