Since 1995, the FAA Academy has been supplying interactive training services to the FAA’s 10 lines of business. Broadcasting from its studio in Oklahoma City, the Academy offers a variety of content via Interactive Video Teletraining (IVT).
To help meet training needs with a decreased budget, the FAA purchased the OneTouch interactive distance learning (IDL) solution in 1995. Using the OneTouch classroom over a satellite-based network, instructors can address employees at nationwide locations simultaneously. The high level of real-time interaction and collaboration between students using interactive touchpads creates a shared learning experience and an engaging classroom environment that is essential to effective distance learning.
“By utilizing a multimedia approach with the added flexibility of OneTouch, the FAA can implement more cost-effective training methods and save significant money in its operations training budget,” said Rich Schrum, the Academy’s IVT operations manager. “But there are more than just monetary benefits. With IVT we can ensure a consistent training message, provide more training opportunities, increase quality of work life by decreasing time away from home, provide training for career advancement and personal growth and offer up-to-date information distribution and exchange.”
Prior to 1995, the Academy conducted a major portion of employee technical training via traditional resident classroom training. In order to receive funding to implement IVT as a training alternative, the Academy had to prove to Congress that it was both cost-effective and that the learning outcome was the same as stand-up training. While the benefits have been dramatic, convincing Congress to approve the shift to distributed learning was not as easy as one might think. “We had to prove to Congress not only that our proposed IVT network was cost-effective, but that the training was as good as our established resident training system,” said Schrum. In an exhaustive study conducted for Congress, test results for residence classroom courses and their equivalent IVT courses were compared to measure their effectiveness. “As we expected, the new (distributed) training medium was proven to be as good as—and in certain cases more effective than—the resident classroom approach.”
“Courses that would have required between eight and 16 hours to conduct in Oklahoma City were completed remotely in six hours due to the efficiency of the multimedia-based presentation,” said Schrum. “The only people required to travel are instructors who travel to the Academy to present the information.”
OneTouch IDL also supports revenue-generating operations in the area of international training. Since 1946, the international aviation community has relied on the FAA Academy for the training of personnel. More than 10,600 students from 167 countries have received training at the Academy. “Today, any country with a compatible satellite downlink capability could participate in the Academy’s aviation training interactively, at a distance. This can save significant money for them while generating revenue for the Academy, ” noted Schrum.
Although the Academy continues to provide resident classroom training, correspondence courses and computer-based training to the FAA lines of business, it highly promotes IVT as an effective and cost-saving training solution. The impact on travel costs has been substantial. Schrum said, “Taking individuals away from their homes and front-line duties for protracted training in Oklahoma City is no longer a necessity in a great many cases. Now, with the OneTouch solution supporting our satellite-based TV network, we can reach and train hundreds of students simultaneously while maintaining a high level of training quality.”
Sarah McCaughey has been working in the interactive distance learning industry for seven years. She is a member of the ASTD and eLearning Forum.