FEMP Conducts E-Learning Trial for Online Energy Courses

August 31, 2005

 

"I would like to see more of this type of learning available. We are located in Nevada and our opportunities for attending FEMP training are limited. Funding is not always available for travel. E-learning seems like the answer."
Pilot Participant

E-learning presents a potential opportunity for energy managers to get help on a variety of subjects when they are unable to travel to training locations. To test this relatively new learning medium, Ab Ream, FEMP's O&M Program Lead, selected Atlanta-based Apogee Interactive, Inc. to conduct a three month trial using their learning management system (LMS) and online energy courses.

Because Apogee had already developed a number of e-learning training modules for their utility customers, FEMP was able to select off-the-shelf classes for the pilot, avoiding most up-front development costs. Susan Gilbert, Apogee's President, explained, "While our training was designed for utility company employees needing to know how to help energy managers, the library of courses are a perfect fit for facility managers." The courses selected for the trial included:

  • Fundamentals of Lighting Systems
  • Energy Efficiency Improvements for Lighting Systems
  • Cooling System Alternatives
  • Fundamentals of Distributed Generation
  • Basic Electricity
  • Fundamentals of Natural Gas, and
  • A series of courses on motors and drives and power quality.

Apogee's courses are all monitored through the LMS, so FEMP was easily able to track students' involvement in the training as well as the overall outcomes.

The pilot had three primary objectives: 1) to assess the receptivity of FEMP's training population to taking courses over the Internet; 2) to learn the technological and IT challenges trainees would face while trying to use the courses from their offices or homes; and 3) to find courses that were best suited for Internet-based delivery.

Several one-hour "Webinars" were conducted to inform facility managers and FEMP regional training representatives of this opportunity, and to provide study objectives, timeframes, and information on how to enroll in the courses. Although the test was planned to offer only 120 courses, more than 400 were actually used over the three month pilot period. "This rapid and wide acceptance of the online courses was our first indication that the pilot was going exceedingly well," said Randy Edwards, Apogee study manager. "In some pilots, we have to urge and remind people repeatedly to finish their course before the deadline, but in this case people were eager to get through the material. We had one of the highest completion rates of any pilot we've conducted."

As far as the pilot's primary objective of gauging trainee receptiveness, 84 percent reported being either satisfied or very satisfied with their e-learning experience. Tests concluded that the majority of unsatisfied participants were taking courses that were not well aligned with their experience levels or job knowledge needs. Additionally, according to pre- and post-test scores, participants learned much from their experiences. For all courses where pre- and post-tests were taken, scores increased by an average of 23 points—from a failing grade of 63 percent to a passing score of 86 percent. Other benefits reported in course evaluations were the ability to study anywhere at anytime, self-paced learning, and taking courses without lost time due to travel and related expenses (with many participants noting this as the primary advantage of online learning). Susan Gilbert, who has led the firm's distance learning initiatives for more than ten years, said, "As pilots go, we feel this was one of the most successful we've conducted. Participants really appreciated the easy access and hard work that has gone into making these courses interesting and meaningful."

Ab Ream stated, "We learned a great deal in the pilot. Our challenge now is to apply what we've learned and put online learning to work for FEMP's O&M Program where it fits." The online learning portal is still available for use through FEMP's O&M online learning site. One-half day to multi-day courses are available at a discounted fee of $135.00 each, which can be paid using a major credit card. A customized Building Commissioning course is scheduled for release during the third quarter of 2005.

For more information on FEMP's O&M online learning program, please contact Ab Ream, 202-586-7230.