Industries such as pharmaceuticals, construction and engineering have one thing in common: At some level, all require hands-on technical training. And regardless of industry, this sort of training often presents the same problems: consistency, safety and lost productivity.
Simulations are a common cure for those problems, and although they’re not new to the learning industry, and the benefits are well-known, simulator training has recently gotten a shot in the arm, said Tadhg Carey, CEO of online technical training provider Thru-U.com
“There is a learning cycle, which is first knowledge acquisition through delivery of chapters through visualization and 3-D animated graphics,” he said. “The second phase is to test and evaluate the target knowledge the acquisition has been achieved.
“People tend to think that’s completed the learning process because if you do an evaluation on content that you’ve just acquired, you can score 85 percent to 90 percent. But if you don’t implement, use, adapt and manipulate training to circumstances, if you go away and don’t use that information for a week or two, most of that knowledge is gone because the evaluation only ensures that it’s in your short-term memory.”
Applying information and skills in practical, hands-on scenarios for realistic problems is what burns them into people’s long-term memory, Carey said. A simulator module offers the necessary information via visualization. Therefore, you don’t have to depend on literacy because the learning is seeing.
“In technical skills such as maintaining a pump, you’re presented with a simulator, where you’ve got to take the pump apart and put it back together, but it’s a simulator online, so it takes out the wasted time retrieving a wrench, hammer or tools — you only do the tasks that are specifically required,” Carey explained. “The use of training time is hugely enhanced.”
Further, simulators can be programmed so that learners aren’t allowed to perform tasks incorrectly or in the incorrect sequence.
This has implications for governing or regulating bodies that might require certification — CLOs or can set and adhere to exact standards and procedures their organization established, which has major implications for multinational companies with plants worldwide.
Carey said the Internet’s audio-visual nature has been used very unimaginatively, and that the main problem with e-learning is it only addresses the top 15 percent of the company (people who, essentially, are used to learning by reading.) The rest of a company’s employees — the people who manufacture or perform engineering services on the factory floor or at the building site — might actually be the ones who determine whether the company makes or loses profits.
“If you train them properly, increase productivity, have reduced quality failures, you can increase your profits,” Carey said. “You’ve plants everywhere, and the production people are being trained by local personnel. The quality of that training is dependent on that person’s communication skills in that particular plant or location. If you’re FDA-regulated or whatever, the one group of people for whom you really would like to have standardized, quality training worldwide is the one bunch of people that you can’t train with consistency.”
Simulators or interactive movies delivered 24×7 via the Internet offer CLOs an ideal platform to disseminate training anywhere in the world, as needed.
The “learn by seeing, hearing and doing” methodology replicates the work environment, equipment, processes, etc., in 3-D, and learners are evaluated online, which offers CLOs an easily tracked record of employee performance online from anywhere in the world.
“Using the simulator, the production line does not have to be off-process, so it’s not time-dependent,” Carey said. “They don’t have to suffer quality or productivity failures while people are brought up to speed because they’re practicing on a simulator, not on the actual equipment. And if there are dangers involved, if they make mistakes, they’re not a danger to themselves or others — they’re allowed to make mistakes and learn in a safer environment.”
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