Birmingham-based Today's Class, which was founded 20 years ago to provide traditional online learning programs for schools, introduced its vehicle technician platform two years ago.
So far it has partnered with the Tire Industry Association (TIA), Genuine Parts Co.'s NAPA Autotech training program and Hunter Engineering Co., which make the platform available to their networks of members or customers.
"As we started exploring this platform, we really listened to some of the challenges from technicians and people trying to develop technicians. Technicians don't have time to train," Mr. Boyes said.
In order to find out what technicians don't know, the app poses questions and scenarios on various topics and the algorithm determines what the tech knows and where there are knowledge gaps.
The system can then report to the manager that a certain tech, for example, knows how to generally do alignments, but might have a knowledge gap on cambers. So the manager may pull the tech aside and provide hands-on training and focus on that skill, Mr. Boyes said.
The dealership can customize the platform to focus on certain skill sets by providing training and refresher courses. In turn, the training can be customized for each individual's skill set and knowledge, so no two learners get the same curriculum, Mr. Boyes said.
All of Today's Class curriculum is ATMC- (Automotive Training Managers Council) or ASE-accredited, he said, and all content has been developed in-house with the guidance of an adult learning expert who is also an ASE Master-certified technician.
Organizations also have the option of layering in their own content, even from another company, Mr. Boyes said.
"Each customer has their own needs and we have a lot of different levers that we can pull to make it fit their requirements," he said.
"So the content that's been out there is great. There are loads and loads of good content," Mr. Boyes said.
"Our position is that the way we make it accessible and how we make it relevant and how we keep them engaged, how we reinforce it over time, is just delivering it essentially in a more effective way that kind of fits the way our culture is going today.
"People have an expectation that things are going to be relevant. They're going to be on their phones. It's going to be quick and convenient. It's personalized. The timing of the way the technology has advanced fits with where we're going."
The platform is also customized for the user's job, so a service advisor would be getting different training from a technician, or a passenger vehicle technician would get different training than a commercial tire tech.
The content can also be used to reinforce safety protocols in the work environment.
With the constant technology updates to vehicles and equipment, technicians in particular need to keep up with the latest information, Mr. Shanas said.
"How are you going to efficiently impart the necessary skills and information to learners so they can meet the challenges of the future?" he asked.
"We think this (platform) is part of that solution. It's not going to replace the tactile component. Technicians in particular have a tactile job. So there is still real value in instructor-led training and shop experience. But this provides guideposts that steer that training, as well, in the most efficient fashion by which it can be delivered."
The platform also has a points system that allows an organization to provide rewards to employees as an incentive to complete a certain amount of daily skills tests and training.
Return on investment
Today's Class claims its platform can monetize an organization's return on investment for training.
Once the platform acquires a large enough data cube (about six months of consistent utilization), it can identify for an organization areas of opportunity within that business, such as improving its brakes service business, Mr. Shanas said.
"We can tie their brakes-revenue metrics and have the system automatically push training to mitigate and improve the revenue stream for brakes," he said.
"It really helps organizations of size to manage their training spend, use those precious dollars more effectively and really benefit the organization, but more importantly, benefit the motoring public — because then they get a better equipped technician working on their vehicles. A better equipped provider results in a better experience."
The cost varies by affiliation, as some organizations will offset some of the cost as a benefit for their customers/members, Mr. Shanas said. Otherwise, a single-shop cost would be a $65-per-month subscription.
NAPA AutoCare recently announced that it is offering Today's Class as a subscription to all NAPA AutoTech major account customers.
"The Today's Class platform represents a significant technology enhancement to NAPA's industry-leading technician training offerings," Scott Kochetta, director, NAPA AutoTech, said.
"We can now leverage data to deliver our best solutions to customers through a targeted multi-disciplinary approach without impacting shop productivity."
NAPA AutoTech provides training to automotive professionals, using self-paced customized eLearning, virtual, hands-on instructor-led training for almost every make and model vehicle.
Meanwhile, TIA is offering the platform to its association members as a reinforcement of what technicians learned for their TIA certifications.
The app can also help techs build confidence for taking ASE certification tests, Mr. Boyes said, because the app assessments are consistent with the types of questions posed on ASE exams.
He said the app does not replace ASE preparatory materials, but it helps the tech know their knowledge gaps and what areas they need to study.