Why a simulator alone is not a complete training solution

July 17, 2013  |  Best Practices

simulators - most effective as part of a blended learning curriculumAs we visit mines to talk with them about their training needs, we're struck by the number that have invested in motion-platform simulators. When used properly, there's no question that they can be valuable training tools.

But we've seen too many cases where they have BECOME the training program. Inevitably, training at these mines isn't as effective as it could be, and mine management finds they're not getting the return on investment they hoped for from their expensive hardware investments.

I recall listening to a presentation by a training manager from a gold mine who had new trainees utilize a full-motion platform simulator almost immediately after they were hired. He explained how they became overwhelmed by the whole experience. Without any training prior to being placed in the simulator, they didn't know enough about the task they were expected to do in the simulator session. He was forced to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to "wrap" training around the simulator to make it a more effective tool.

New technology requires changes to existing processes

This situation reminds me of the Big 3 U.S. automakers in the 1970s (GM, Ford and Chrysler), when they collectively invested hundreds of millions of dollars in sophisticated robots to handle welding, assembly and painting tasks. They tried to "bolt on" these sophisticated tools to existing assembly lines and processes, only to discover numerous problems and significantly lower-than-expected productivity.

It was only after several years of intense pain that these manufacturers realized that they needed to optimize their production lines and manufacturing processes to accommodate this new technology in order to realize the full benefits of it.

Likewise, a simulator by itself doesn't represent a complete training solution. It must be integrated with classroom or computer-based training that prepares trainees for what they will experience in the simulator sessions, and on-the-job activities that help to reinforce the concepts they've learned.

It's our belief here at VISTA that simulators need to be integrated into a blended curriculum, which makes them more effective learning tools.

Blended learning in action with haul truck operator trainees

That's the format behind VISTA's award-winning TruckLogic™ haul truck operator training curriculum. It is structured around a carefully designed set of tasks that are arranged in a building-block sequence and are presented to trainees one at a time. Trainees first learn foundational skills - those that are critical to learning how to operate the truck - and then move on to more complex ones that build upon the basic tasks. At each step, knowledge is chunked to enhance retention.

simulators and blended learningFor example, on day 4 of the 5-day curriculum, trainees learn how to dump their truck's payload at a dump pocket. The learning for this important task begins with a computer-based training session, where they learn the best practices for doing so and potential safety hazards that could be encountered.

Immediately after the CBT, trainees transition to a simulator, where they can practice this task in a simulated environment, developing muscle memory for the sequence of control movements they must perform.

Finally, trainees move to an on-the-job ride-along activity, where they are able to practice backing into a dump pocket in an actual haul truck, with an experienced operator/field trainer riding along with them. It's the repetition of "learn/practice/do" activities that anchors this critical knowledge in the minds of trainees.

As you can see from this example, the simulator is not a stand-alone training activity. Rather, it's a tool that, when integrated into a blended learning structure, is far more effective than the simulator alone ever could be. Want proof? Check out the documented results we achieved at Suncor Energy.

Want to learn more about how to integrate your simulator with a blended approach to training? Please contact us at trucklogic@vista-training.com.

Interested? See: our Equipment Simulators and Gold Series Training Curricula

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Tags: construction, mining, simulation, simulator

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