The timing is good
What a great time to invest in learning technology. It’s a good sound-bite that an iPhone 6 has 120 million times the computing power of the Apollo missions. Proof, if required, that high quality hardware and software has become consumerised, miniaturised and cheap. Equally, the last year has seen multiple virtual reality and hand tracking devices hit the market – priced within reach of domestic consumers.
Put together, this means that investments in learning technology can be focused more on the content that supports knowledge and competence rather than the wires and tin that will sit in the corner depreciating wildly while contributing little to skills development.
The Learning Experience
Many of 2016’s apprenticeship in-take will have been born this century. Post millennial Generation Z are true digital natives (it’s possible that they wouldn’t recognise a VHS cassette) so in the context of the rail industry, adoption of CAD-based training that simulates and recreates environments and systems is pretty much a bare minimum to appeal to new talent as well as aligning to the learning styles of young learners; placing greater emphasis on interaction, instant feedback and engagement through gamification. Equally it can be used as vehicle to showcase the industry to compete with aeronautics, automotive, telecoms while contributing positively to people agendas and evidencing commitment to investment in learning.
Quality, Safety and Control
Beyond showcasing an industry and appealing to hearts and minds, there are powerful reasons to adopt advanced learning technology for both new entrants and existing staff. Software packages underpin consistency of delivery, content can be used on mobile devices allowing training material to be taken easily into the work-place. Equally, high-end simulations can be developed into fault-finding tools and automated change control applied when engineering changes are implemented – all while simulating hazardous situations in an entirely safe environment. Harnessed with intelligent monitoring, software drives ownership of learning, effectiveness can be monitored and on-line competence assessing reduces classroom effort. Refresher training requirements can be identified and carried out in a far smarter way. Interactivity stimulates knowledge retention, encouraging greater self-participation providing material for revision, reference and practice.
Timeliness and cost
Trains are expensive things and are at their best when carrying passengers – VR is an excellent quality substitution for access to specialist assets that are inaccessible (or only accessible out of hours at premium rates). Equally, while the primary driver in developing training must rightly focus on quality, there is also real opportunity to reduce time to complete – call it the interactivity dividend – while the ability to use a training environment as opposed to a depot allows an increased ratio of delegates to trainers where specialist equipment can be viably simulated. Finally, trees of the world can celebrate – technology allows a substantial reduction of paper based training materials – although anticipate the need to address a cultural addiction to paper that at least some non-digital natives (both trainers and trainees) will need to be weaned off.
What to watch?
Technology is not a silver bullet. Misdirected,today’s innovation initiative is tomorrow’s expensive door stop. Take heed that: