For most of us on the managerial side of the HVACR business, growing up in the Information Age meant that we were really born in B.C. — Before Computers. When we wanted more information, it was a laborious path — ask a friend or search for it by going to a bookstore or library. Maybe sign up for a course at a technical school or enroll in an MBA program. It was particularly frustrating when we wanted ONLY that one piece of information — we didn't really want to wade through an entire course — but had to spend so much time tracking it down.
On an unrelated project, I started to investigate educational courses available over the Internet. I figured without really thinking about it that there were plenty. After searching, the results floored me. You can literally take the same courses that students pay for at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). And it's free, though they will accept a donation. MIT and 21 other schools (Notre Dame, University of Michigan, Tufts, among others) are part of the OpenCourseWare Consortium (www.ocwconsortium.org) that involves 200 schools and organizations worldwide committed to making educational courses available to everyone with a thirst for learning. These courses include text, video or both. Students do not earn a degree but do have access to the very same materials available to paying students.
In my research (and forgive my ignorance), I discovered YouTube.com/edu — a section of the site dedicated to educational resources. Naturally, I wanted to see what HVACR would produce when I placed the initials in the search section.
When I typed in HVAC at www.youtube.com, I got 5,220 hits. Adding the “R” for refrigeration only netted 888. I did this on May 29, 2009. For fun, I typed in plumbing and immediately felt bad. It drew 25,000 hits.
One of the first videos that appeared on the selection of page one with HVACR was “Troubleshooting HVAC-R.” This 8-minute, 13-second video explaining how to troubleshoot a fan control board.
HARDI has it's own video on Youtube. Just type in: “Connections for Life: Distribution in the HVACR Industry” to view.
Imagine your forklift breaking down in the warehouse. Instead of calling in a mechanic, your operator, who is handy, has an idea of how to fix the problem but isn't quite sure. Maybe he's afraid of tinkering with the motor because he might aggravate the problem. Imagine going to YouTube.com/edu, tapping in the problem in the search section, and there's a 4-minute video that walks you through the problem. Wow! What more could you want?
I am a dyed-in-the-wool print guy, a fellow who thinks that typewriten black letters, in courier font [as in this example] on white paper, is high art and holds some magical quality. A book or manual has always been my built-in expert if I couldn't afford the rates of a living, breathing expert.
But even I must confess that virtually no instruction book or manual can surpass the impact and clarity of what a video delivers. And the sheer breadth of topics that you can access leaves me in awe. You can even earn a law degree via the Internet, though, to my knowledge, the American Bar Association doesn't accredit any online schools.
There are, of course, many other sites beyond the two I've listed. The simplest way to begin is go to the Google home page. Click on video and go watch and learn.
P.S. An editor friend of mine read my column and had an interesting comment. Here's what he e-mailed me: Tom, this story reminds me of the first primitive efforts to put newspapers on the Web in the early 1980s. No one thought it would go anywhere, and now it is threatening the very existence of newspapers.
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