Senior Product Manager
Right Hemisphere Inc.
There are many ways to go beyond classroom learning to support complex equipment and convey critical information to teams. Alternatives include distance learning, Web-based learning, computer-based training, and e-learning. Each has advantages, such as on-demand availability and no need for out-of-town travel. But organizations increasingly need complimentary strategies which link Web-based learning and on-demand availability with just-in-time requirements to on-the-job needs. Traditional training methods often fall short because they require either extensive training courses or browsing and searching through publications to find what is needed. Students, however, find that emerging just-in-time interactive training methods are a more effective tool than publication-based training and a better match for organizations that handle maintenance.
JITT presents technical information in a format that ensures fast understanding. Multimedia, for example, combines 3D visuals, animation, sound, text, and interactivity to speed learning and increase retention. Data in 3D lets students quickly take in a lot of information. It is the best way to show how a mechanical assembly can be taken apart and reassembled, short of working on the actual assembly. Models in 3D also let students see parts from all sides, flip them upside down, and thoroughly investigate them in relation to their position and function.
Recent course-development software allows reusing 3D data from engineering computer-aided design (CAD) applications for use as JITT material. This means companies can incorporate engineering data into their training as soon as it's available.
Several computer technologies have converged to make training more dynamic. For example, PCs are equipped with CPUs that run at speeds in excess of 1 GHz and high-powered 3D-graphics processors make it possible to manipulate 3D geometry in real time. Video compression and emerging standards for multimedia formats make it possible to create virtual classrooms on relatively inexpensive computers. Internet broad-band access, wireless and satellite communications, and the World Wide Web provide connections from almost any place. Even large 3D data files can be quickly down-loaded and displayed. Networks also include security features to restrict access and encrypt data.
Technology that spans engineering and training departments helps turn product information and data into effective JITT content while reducing the expense and time previously associated with generating training content.
By reusing design data, for example, a U.S. helicopter manufacturer discovered significant time reduction for creating maintenance training content for all aspects of a 300,000-part aircraft. Traditional methods of preparing content for 2D illustrated service manuals meant that graphic artists and illustrators spent an average of 160 hr to remodel parts where design data was not available or recreate complex technical illustrations. Reusing design data let these teams reduce preparation time from 160 hr to 5 min.
In a company that builds large equipment, such as aircraft or military vehicles, interactive instructions might be the work of several people, such as an instruction designer to describe the content of a lesson and a subject-matter expert who would en-sure the materials are technically correct. Often, a multimedia programmer will create instruction material using common Web applications and create the content package in accordance with Scorm (Sharable content object reference model) guidelines. These are defined by the Dept.of Defense so that instruction material generated for one branch of the service is useful at other branches and companies. Other people, such as graphic artists, may also help develop course work. Smaller companies with simpler products may need only one or two people to generate lessons.
Authors can use CAD data from multiple sources when creating a course. There is JITT software that imports many CAD-file formats. Data repositories safely store and manage data in formats that are easily changed or augmented as requirements change.
After adding other media such as the assembly and disassembly animation, images of different viewpoints, and course text, the multimedia developer simply compiles this courseware collection as a shared-content object (SCO) using a Scorm packaging tool such as Reload (freely available from reload.ac.uk). The interactive instruction is ready for testing.
A company gains several benefits after learning the training software. For one, training can be limited to what and when it is needed. Basic training can give students a foundation for later on-the-job learning and in-field support.
Rather than deploying personnel that have already performed dozens of tasks they might face during a mission, teams can now send out personnel that have confidence that they can learn anything (from a laptop computer) when the need arises, and avoid spending time learning content that might not ever be applied.
Interactive JITT can share experiences gained in the field and promote knowledge sharing. Graphical markups, notes, and suggestions from content experts can be loaded into a central JITT server that redistributes information, thereby fostering bidirectional learning for the whole enterprise.
Turning data into interactive instructions
Right Hemisphere Inc., (877) 309-3204, righthemisphere.com