By Oliver Diaz
Businesses in the water treatment industry are often small and independently owned, so making investments in training—especially those involving advanced e-learning technologies—can seem like a daunting proposition. The types of e-learning available today, however, can actually be the smartest investments of all. In many fast-moving industries, such as high tech or oil and gas, increasing job complexity, a knowledge gap among young workers and stringent compliance requirements pose huge challenges. But these industries are responding by devoting resources to technologically advanced training methods. With these advanced technologies, the water treatment industry can also save time and manage change, educate potential clients, increase employee safety and limit liability, and give businesses a competitive edge by maximizing employee efficiency.
E-learning efficiencies for customer education and employee training
Do you have a few critical employees who are so over-committed to on-boarding new employees or educating customers that they have little time for other responsibilities? Developing e-learning can transform the amount of effort allocated to these essential tasks. With rapid development and modular, re-usable assets, such as 3D media, businesses can minimize change management and promotion expenses. Modular, rapid e-learning not only allows for fast development, it also makes it simple to produce engaging educational tools directed at both employees and clients. Rich media, such as 3D assets, provides assets that allow for quick, cost-effective change management. A 3D model of equipment can be the source for a huge range of imagery; it can be manipulated, updated and re-used as the equipment or the training needs change. This is called a ‘living asset’ because, unlike photography, there are no limits to the amount of detail, resolution, angles, backgrounds or lighting conditions that can be produced from one 3D model.
For employees, developing learner-centered training has benefits similar to modular training. Modular training gives learners a sense of control over their training experience and makes it more accessible. Learner-centered training is focused on enhancing employee skills and procedures from the learner’s perspective, which makes the material much more relevant to learners. In addition, that material is going to stay fresh for much longer than training focused on the minutiae of equipment or service details that change with every new procedure or client. But even when the details of equipment or work environments change rapidly, as they do in manufacturing or technical businesses, 3D assets allow companies to quickly and cost-effectively update their training to match. Such assets are certainly not limited to employee training. They can be leveraged for customer education as well. Showing clients demonstrations of services and processes develops extremely valuable customer confidence in the business. For example, many companies have made important business advances at trade shows with a custom-made and entertaining animated video with 3D that vividly illustrates the benefits of their latest technologies to customers.
First-person simulations that impact employee behavior
Richly interactive training can now incorporate advanced simulation technologies so trainees can be prepared for real-life scenarios encountered during water treatment in the field. They can learn complex procedures and processes quickly and without the risk factors involved in real-life situations or real equipment. Training within real-world scenarios rewards the application of both newly acquired skills and previous experience, so learners develop competencies rather than just memorizing correct answers. Simulations have long been used as a training method in high-risk or highly instrumented environments, such as flight or medical training. One doesn’t need life-threatening tasks in order to benefit from simulations, however. Education research has shown that adult learners retain significantly more instruction and perform better on competency tests by experiencing simulated real-life scenarios in which they can practice a task, and even fail, without risk.
The water treatment industry requires flexible and highly effective training delivery options that change employee behaviors. Simulation training is ideal for highly instrumented environments, but it is also ideal for blending hard and soft skills. One recent example of such training includes a serious game in which learners train on both inspection tasks and the soft skills involved in communicating with those being inspected. Similar tools could revolutionize inspection and testing for commercial, institutional, industrial and municipal water treatment programs.
Bridging the training-to-operations gap with augmented reality
The most advanced training no longer has to interrupt operations at all; it can be integrated into operations. By incorporating the real world with the virtual, augmented reality (AR) anchors information when and where people need it. Whereas a simulation is an entirely computer-generated experience, AR superimposes computer-generated information or imagery over the user’s view of the real world. Enormously influential innovators like Google, Microsoft, HP and Logitech are all working on augmented-reality displays that help with way-finding and technical visualizations, among other applications.
Job aids and other training tools delivered via AR have many benefits: they can be easily and remotely updated whenever equipment or procedures change, they require less reliance on synchronous classroom training and they enable employees to quickly coordinate their tasks with appropriate co-workers, with virtual-reality glasses to assemble 747s, it’s very possible that ‘augmented’ employees may soon be a standard in many industries. AR promotes valuable operational efficiencies by creating a seamless transition between training and operations. The same assets developed for training can be used by workers to understand the hazards in their environment and provide on-demand instructions relevant to their current task. Also, the same procedural steps used to train employees can be re-purposed into a procedure management system in order to monitor and track employee performance for safety compliance purposes.
The merging of physical and digital worlds is made possible by some of the most advanced e-learning technologies and has the potential to advance the water treatment industry’s customer education and employee training in many creative, cost-effective ways. As many businesses are discovering, 3D assets, simulations and augmented reality visualizations offer vast new possibilities for improving internal and external learning in an increasingly technology-driven field.
About the author
Oliver Diaz, CEO and Founder of FuelFX, brings a unique insight into business culture and how to effectively communicate in and out of it. He and his team at FuelFX are a unique mix of creative-content providers and technologists. They employ state-of-the-art 3D communications technology, like augmented reality, virtual reality, digital laboratory simulators, parallax web development and 3D animations for clients like Exxon, Dell and BP for improved training, business intelligence and agility.