08/25/2020 by Val D'Anna
Increased consumption of TV, gaming and other streaming services isn’t all COVID-19 has triggered. Learning is on the upsurge too. Given the opportunity of open time and unlimited access to I-CAR online and virtual courses through a subscription plan, “extreme learners” completed 100, 200 and even 300-plus I-CAR courses between March 1 and mid-July of 2020.
Altogether 88 learners completed 100 or more courses during the four-and-a-half-month period ending mid-July. The group completing 75 to 300-plus courses was twice as large, with a total of 193 extreme learners. Broaden the criteria to 50 or more course completed during this same time period, and the number skyrockets to 926 extreme learners.
Extreme learners we talked to didn’t intend to binge on I-CAR courses. They started just wanting to learn more about a topic like ADAS or to complete their Platinum™ requirements. Soon they were filling open hours both on and off the job taking I-CAR training; at times, taking five, 10 or even more courses in a single day. Many also started engaging in other learning activities, from researching information on I-CAR’s Repairability Technical Support (RTS)™ to watching webinars and YouTube videos on collision repair topics. Learning became a daily habit.
“I just started working on the requirements for my PDP (Professional Development Program) role and then saw that there weren’t too many more for the next PDP role and then the next and so on,” Tim Frisbey of Cable Dahmer Auto Group, Independence, Missouri, says. “I’m trying to lead by example,” the technical advisor and training manager explains; although few could follow his lead of completing 186 courses in under five months. This intense burst of training pushed the number of roles in which Frisbey is Platinum to eight and tripled the number of I-CAR courses he completed since he began training with I-CAR in 2002. It’s a unique feat, accomplished under unique circumstances, requiring an unstoppable drive to continue as long as there’s another course left to launch. 
“It has been a real blessing and advantage having the training subscription with I-CAR,” Frisbey says. “I try to encourage my managers and peers to take advantage of this gold mine of information and the advantages of the training culture here.”
Initially, Justin Begley, who joined the parts department at Collision Plus, Blacksburg, Virginia, 2-1/2 years ago, was able “to cherry pick some I-CAR courses” to get grounded in his new career path. “Once we got the subscription,” he says, “they turned me loose and I just dug in.” 
Shop employees were encouraged to train during the slow times, and Begley often continued training off the clock. His co-workers rooted him on. “Every day, they’d be asking, ‘How many did you do? What number are you at?’” That number grew to an awe-inspiring 235 courses. 
At first Begley followed his interests, choosing estimating courses, but “after a week into it, I told the guys I was going to take every class I can.” Had he stuck with estimating, he would have missed out on what turned out to be a favorite course, “Electrical Theory.” Many of his co-workers took the class on his recommendation. 
In a way, Frisbey’s training choices also are guided by personal interests; however, all training opportunities are good choices because, as he explains, “I want to know how everything works! I have a thirst for knowledge.”
Being an extreme learner holds an extra challenge for someone as knowledgeable as Frisbey. With over 30 years of experience, he could not expect to encounter only new information in his recently-completed 186 courses. He believes there’s value in “refreshers” plus he saw an improvement in I-CAR’s new purpose-built curriculum with shorter courses. “I like the separation of subjects. There are more courses but not as much redundancy and overlap.” 
Frisbey sees ongoing training as a necessity “to obtain/keep OEM certifications and stay ahead of ever changing technology.” He also feels an obligation as the training manager “that if I enroll someone in a course, then I should have already taken it myself to allow for collaboration and enhance our learning on that subject.”
At the other end of the experience spectrum, Begley, a relative newcomer, had the opposite challenge—covering an overload of new information in a short period of time. “You can’t retain everything,” he says, but he discovered the experience stretched his learning muscle. “I found my brain was more open to information by taking a lot of training at once. I focused better. There was some redundancy, but it also helped hammer things home for me.”
Is there something different about an extreme learner? Can anyone duplicate what Begley and Frisbey did?
Extreme learners share a drive to learn, but they are not all made alike. Their motivations, for one, can vary, as is the case with Begley and Frisbey.
Admitting he was the “weird kid” in elementary school, Frisbey sat in the back row next to the encyclopedia collection and “got in trouble more than once for reading them” instead of doing assignments.  After high school, he planned to follow his dream for a career in aviation, but he could not secure financial aid. This shaped his attitude that “I definitely take an interest in any training that is available to me (like the subscription plan).”
After this set-back, the teenaged Frisbey lost no time pivoting with an opportunity to “learn by doing” at his uncle’s body shop. A structural technician for most of his career, he became ASE-certified, and besides I-CAR training and multiple Platinum designations, completed 165 General Motors courses. In his current job, he is the “go to” person for his knowledge and expert research skills. He schedules training to make sure everyone on the team is up to date and doing repairs the right way. It’s an ideal “fit” for Frisbey, who’s been an extreme learner ever since fate placed his school desk next to the encyclopedias.
Knowing the window for “extreme learning” wouldn’t stay open forever, Begley pushed himself hard during the slowdown earlier in the pandemic. With a background in flooring, Begley’s made a giant leap through his learning curve in a very short time. The structural training courses in particular gave him a new confidence, helping him understand the entire repair process. 
“I’m better at my job, and I made it to Platinum ProLevel 3 in Non-Structural and ProLevel 1 in Refinish,” Begley says, which makes him optimistic about his new field. “I’m able to ‘talk the talk.’ This is a great place to work.”