The Human Touch
By Shanin C. Pepple
July / August 1998
It seems that with today's technology, the possibilities, choices, and opportunities are endless. Maintenance training is benefitting from these new technological opportunities. To help reduce costs and for added convenience, training facilities have embraced newer technologies and have begun to offer less traditional methods of training to its customers. One example is computer-based training (CBT) for initial and recurrent training. With CBT, students work at their own computers, at their own pace, and are led through courses without instructor intervention. Initially, CBT was regarded as a breakthrough in training. The industry discovered, however, that while CBT works well in some applications, it is not the answer to all types of training.
"CBT was going to be all things to all people a few years ago, but I think that the industry has found out that it can't do that," says Lonnie Williams, sales manager of maintenance training for SimuFlite in Dallas,TX. "We had envisioned CBT as a task training device where we put a person in a room for a couple of hours and he/she comes out qualified to remove, replace, and ops check various components. But it just didn't work that way. And we learned that we still had to go through the routine of touching the hardware."
Maintenance training facilities recognize that CBT is not as effective for advanced training that requires more of a human touch. They have found that students need interaction with instructors to properly learn and retain important training information. Although a computer has thorough knowledge of the material, it lacks human knowledge. It doesn't recognize a student's confused expression, nor can it answer specific questions.
"CBT won't necessarily give you specific solutions to problems. The specific questions are going to have to be directed to the customer representatives, customer help desk, or to our customer training center," says Norm Jeche, technical instructor at the Pratt & Whitney Customer Training Center.
Jeche said when CBT first entered the training scene, some stand up instructors feared losing their jobs. The future of training was said to be headed in the direction of fewer instructors, but that philosophy soon changed. "We found out in the last year or so that CBT can't answer every question. There still has to be some interaction with an instructor or someone that can answer your questions."
Bill Wissore, project manager for product advancement for FlightSafety International in Hurst, TX adds, "When we talk about aircraft-specific courses, you are going to need to have someone who has some experience with that aircraft and be able to relate that and answer questions asked by the class."
Besides the benefits of working with an instructor, training facilities have found that students benefit from the interaction with other students.
"Aviation people like to share experiences with one another and they like to have interaction with one another while they are training," said Wissore. "There's a significant advantage to that because a lot of our customers say they like to come to our learning centers and take training with other people because they learn about as much from the experience of others in the class as they do from the instructor leading it. There's a lot of issues that come up. There's a lot of learning that takes place when people interact with each other."
And in a business that spans the globe, training facilities have found that other cultures prefer a friendly face to a computer screen. Plus, customers in many countries aren't comfortable with computer technology.
"A lot of people still prefer things to be done face to face, especially in different countries," Jeche claims.
Instead, they have found that CBT is an excellent tool for teaching remedial, recurrent, and even refresher training material. In fact, they prefer to use CBT for that type of training because it saves time in the classroom. Instructors are not necessary for the level that CBT trains to.
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