According to Karen Arhontes, supervisor of technology-based training at BART, there are two training groups for the district. Her group, the technical training group, is responsible for operations training, and then there is a human resources or management training group, she said. “We train all of the front-line workers in their skill area,” she explained. “Anything around soft-skills training would come out of the human resources group, in general.”
BART employs about 3,300 workers, and Arhontes’ training group services about 2,500 of those employees officially. “But because we’re the only department that is doing online training, it is reaching everybody in the district,” Arhontes said, “so we could technically say that we’re reaching the whole district with the e-learning side of the business.”
Arhontes said BART uses the Pathlore LMS to track transcripts and keep records of training within the group, in addition to reporting features that make reports available to client departments at the time they are needed. “That helps us when it comes to regulatory training and compliance issues,” she said. BART is regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission, as well as OSHA.
The main reason BART chose to implement an LMS, said Arhontes, was access. “That’s probably the biggest reason to move in this direction,” she said. “It started as an access issue for the training group itself. Now it is about access for the entire district.” In addition, Arhontes said the LMS allows the district to consolidate all of the training offerings that have been developed by individual departments within the district, such as the Civil Rights group and the Safety group.
Arhontes said getting buy-in was not difficult. “The actual application of it is where we ran into the bigger problem,” she explained. “On a concept level it’s great—everybody likes the idea that they can reach people quickly, that the employees can get in and take training when they need to as far as just-in-time issues, but I guess it’s still new enough that it’s hard for people to conceive that this could actually replace a classroom-based learning environment. It can’t in all situations, but there seems to be this tendency—people always want to go back to what they know, so our job has been to constantly remind them of the benefits they’re getting from the system, and that is usually what helps sway them.”
In addition to using the system to track employees’ progress through training, Arhontes said the LMS allows BART to make information available to employees and ensure that they have actually seen it. “We may put out bulletins that let people know that we’re changing how we repair a certain part of the vehicle,” Arhontes said. “Tracking that they actually saw it and having a supervisor know who on the floor has seen that document in a quick, real-time way—that is something that the LMS has allowed us to do. It’s always been a challenge for us to keep track of those things because there are so many of them that go out.”
The biggest benefit of the LMS, Arhontes said, is the ability to reach employees quickly with changes. For example, she explained that certain OSHA training must be delivered annually. “Instead of having to re-coordinate classes every year and come up with ways to redeliver it, we are looking for a canned package that we can put out there and just have the system deliver it for us on an annual basis,” Arhontes said. “There’s a major cost savings and time savings involved with that.”
She added, “When we’ve had things like with 9/11 where we needed to train people very quickly and get some very critical information out there in a very short period of time, we were able to do that, where without the system, that wouldn’t have happened—it would have taken a lot longer.”
Ultimately, the LMS allows BART to make quick changes to its processes, keep its employees informed of those changes and track that dissemination of information. Arhontes said, “The fact that we are able to distribute a training program to the entire district and have the largest portion—say 80 percent of the population in the district—go through that program in a six-week time period makes a big difference to how quickly we can make changes in how we do things.”