Despite an emerging trend toward robust, interactive e-learning tools and technologies, some insurance companies continue to reap results from tried-and-true applications that are basic yet effective.Eschewing the bells and whistles, South Carolina Farm Bureau Insurance Co. continues to place a significant emphasis on CD-ROM diskettes for e-learning. The Columbia, S.C.-based carrier also has an intranet site chock full of information that agents need to write new business-often used as a "refresher" of insurance products the carrier markets.

South Carolina Farm Bureau, a property/casualty insurer with net annual premium of $142 million, has a network of 245 captive agents. "We're in a coastal state where customers have different needs-such as for property insurance, flood insurance and earthquake coverage," explains Beth Gamble Riggins, director of training for South Carolina Farm Bureau. "The agent must be aware of all these (potential) causes of loss and any special treatment necessary.

"As they write property insurance, our agents need to see pictures of houses and construction types," she says. "It's a matter of matching a homeowner product we offer with the type of dwelling." Agents also need to understand flood insurance, which is a complex product line with terms and conditions. "They have to know about the flood requirements and the various maps and zones across the state. The CD-ROM series supports this effort."

At South Carolina Farm Bureau, new agents take classroom training and then use the CD-ROM diskettes to help augment what they've learned in the traditional classroom setting. Once agents become established, they continue to tap the CD-ROMs whenever necessary.

In addition, South Carolina Farm Bureau uses its Microsoft Outlook e-mail system to support e-learning. "If we have a new product, we can transmit an e-mail with an attachment to an agent laptop," says Riggins. "The attachments might include illustrations or a comparison chart of before-after when there is a policy change. Agents can take an e-mail attachment in Outlook and save them permanently to a local hard drive. They get the key points of a policy change that will be implemented."

The company also provides training materials on its intranet site, at scfbins.com, where agents can run through a series of PowerPoint slides to get up to speed on a particular insurance product.

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