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Internet Training Case Study: Institute of Motor Industry


For a demonstration of the potential of internet-enabled training software, the Institute of Motor Industry provides an excellent case study, having increased its training-based revenues by 70% as a result of a new talent management system.

The IMI is an independent professional association representing 25,000 people in the retail motor trade. The organisation is also an independent qualification awarding body, devising and delivering assessments that candidates can use to gain a range of qualifications in the motor trade, from NVQs to Modern Apprenticeships.

However, organising tests for 15,000 students each year was proving expensive and time-consuming for the IMI. “We were probably spending £200,000 a year, and only recouping half of that amount through test fees,” admits Allan Tyrer, the IMI’s company secretary and financial director.

The problem was that students needed to complete paper examinations in approved test centres – which meant training companies needed to hire premises and invigilators, and the IMI needed to print, distribute and mark thousands of papers every year. So, in 2001, the organisation began investigating whether it would be possible to administer and manage this training online.

“It was difficult at first because everyone wanted to sell us an e-learning system – but that wasn’t what we wanted,” says Tyrer. “We had a really good question bank and software to randomly generate tests – what we needed was something that would allow candidates to go online and register, log-in, complete tests, have them marked, and get immediate results – and then to feed all that data back into our back-end databases.”

After several months, the IMI opted for a system from SumTotal. The software provides IMI with a complete online solution to manage every step of testing – from candidate registration to issuing tests and recording results. This has been combined with a question bank testing application to form a complete online assessment program called Aspen.

Today, candidates can use any internet-enabled computer to sit an IMI assessment at an IMI-approved centre or at their place or work, providing an assessor is present. The candidate simply logs on to the IMI website and will receive a series of randomised multiple choice questions. The candidate is immediately informed whether they have passed or failed, and in the event of failure, locks out the candidate for 2 days before he can try again.

The software cost £100,000 including all installation, configuration and licensing costs – and took a total of 18 months to get up and running. Because the software is web-based, it requires relatively little support – the IMI has only hired two new employees, plus a part-time worker who acts as the service helpdesk. Even with annual maintenance and support costs of £75,000, the software is dramatically cheaper than the old paper-based testing scheme, says Tyrer.

Other financial benefits included lower expenses at the IMI’s 300 approved assessment centres due to streamlined workflow, reduced administrative time and reduced errors. The speed of results means that assessment centres can also process more students in less time by providing services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In addition, because the system is cheaper, the IMI is able to pass on savings to candidates – so they only pay £15 for each qualification they are awarded from the IMI, regardless of how many tests are required.

This pricing, together with effective customer service, has allowed the IMI to dramatically increase its market share. “When we started this project, we accounted for 30% of the market, and City & Guilds had 60%,” says Tyrer. “But we’re now the market leader with 70% market share, and that’s directly down to the SumTotal software.”

The cheaper running costs, together with the increased market share – some 45,000 students now sit IMI tests online each year – has turned what was a loss-making enterprise into a profitable business. Revenues for the last 12 months topped £800,000 – beyond any of the IMI’s original expectations.

The Aspen system has been so successful that the IMI is now extending online candidate management to other parts of the organisation – several car manufacturers have expressed an interest in using the system to assess job candidates more formally during the recruitment process. “We’ve also had enquiries from other awards bodies who want to license our system, which is a great endorsement of what we’ve achieved,” says Tyrer.


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