How to design exciting, engaging and immersive technical training?

Mega corporations with substantial inter-continental presence have their own challenges to contend with when it comes to employee learning and development skills. A global footprint brings with it a need for courses that can be customized for a globally dispersed crowd of native users. The creation of a learning framework will have to take into consideration challenges manifold. Though globalization has shrunk the world, lack of bandwidth and a robust IT infrastructure can be as limiting as the lack of appropriate skill-sets can be! Added to this, the information overload can be further inhibiting. Complicating it more is the pressing demand for creating content and re-purposing it in such a way that it enraptures the attention of the energetic lot of new generation, tech-savvy learners, helping them to get hooked to learning that will help them build their skills and sharpen their competencies.

How to design exciting, engaging and immersive technical training

Engineering and manufacturing businesses generally fall under the old-economy tag making even the process of hiring difficult. Organizations are not only innovating, but also having to leverage the power of technology to captivate its people who have opted for progressive career paths in these industries due to their passion. So, with business expansion leading to exploring and tapping newer opportunities in newer geographies it is but obvious that newer and additional challenges come to the fore.

Hiring the right candidates is thus not the only challenging task. How do companies keep employees engaged with the learning architecture of the organization? That’s a bigger problem to handle. Let us take the case of a transportation conglomerate, which is in the business of locomotives that operate in over 50 countries. This Fortune 100 Company’s engagement with Origin Learning was set in motion when Origin successfully demonstrated a proof of concept for diesel engines which befitted the company’s requisites and standards.

It is safe to say that for the layman it would be unfathomable and difficult to process the competencies and skills required to handling millions of parts that make up sections of 17,000 locomotives. Constant learning and continuous improvement have become the norm of the day for the highly-skilled workforce at such large enterprises.

By providing an inherent solution of developing courses in native languages, Origin has been able to deepen its engagement with its transportation client. With innovative techniques adopted to make the content learner-friendly, Origin has leveraged technology from time to time to good use. For instance, it overhauled the conventional text-heavy courses, replacing them with animated and simulated content. Content localization has been possible, with courses being developed in different languages, by reuse of graphic content and translation of text-labels. Conventional training, where shop floor engineers had to study text-intense HTML pages with a few clickable images to learn their trade, was in dire need of a major overhaul. With the entry of Origin, the monotonous manuals of yesteryear were given life and vigor. Origin provided a plethora of learning options that include instructor-led training (ILT), web-based training (WBT), 3D training videos, simulations, and 3D-simulated environments.

Origin commenced course development by creating 2D images and animations using the Flash tool, with photographs of engine components also being included in the initial courseware designs. In the ensuing courses, the photographs were converted into 2D images by Origin’s graphics team. The induction of high-definition, semi-realistic 3D graphics to the course design initially had a bottleneck of having limited bandwidth which led to the creation of 3D engine components with 2D flow path animations. This blip was overcome as Origin started receiving entire Computer Aided Design models from the transportation major. Alongside the client, Origin also went through and upskilling as high-end modeling software such as 3Ds Max and Adobe After Effects were used. In addition, finer improvements in lighting and texture of the graphics sought to bring more finesse to the courses.

Originally designed by subject matter experts and stakeholders in Origin, all the courses of the transportation organization have a common structure. Each of the projects gets categorized into Diesel Engine, Electrical Systems, Engine Support Systems, and Mechanical Systems.

Each category has a basic and an advanced course to cater to distinct levels of complexity. The basic course comprises a welcome screen with eye-catching animations, an objective screen which conveys the learning outcomes, an introductory overview screen and content screens which describe operation and component descriptions. Advanced courses further have screens describing engine maintenance, torque specs and step-wise removal and installation procedures of components with corresponding animations. Each course is laden with ‘Check Your Understanding’ questions with interactive templates. The course ends with a brief summary and an assessment is provided at the end of the course.

The courses designed and developed by Origin, when launched on the learning management system (LMS) platform enabled the organization to automate record-keeping and employee registration. As these courses are made device-agnostic, they can be accessed across different platforms/devices such as mobile, iPad, and desktop. The data points can be flashed on the screen to highlight how many people were benefited, the total number of hours consumed in training, and how the language barrier challenge was overcome.

A prime goal of Origin is to consistently improve the hours of training (HOT) material developed when compared to previous years. Increasing the hours of training imparted per year has direct impact on course volume coverage, and the number of learners it attracts.

Origin has kept pace and upgraded content periodically to provide immersive experiences in learning. If the use of 2D and 3D technologies enabled it to connect with its customer, the adoption of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality in the context of learning has strengthened the bonds between the learner and the one imparting the learning. Such an involvement has made the client also explore newer paths to promote the learning culture.

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