Simulation and Immersive Learning

Here’s a nice example I stumbled on this week that illustrates the transition that training needs to make.

A few years ago the UPS driver training unit had a mini-revolt on its hands from younger drivers who were unhappy with the long traditional classroom-based training program required for new drivers.  The program was experiencing increasingly higher failure rates and the number of tasks that had to be learned was becoming too much for classroom delivery.  Peggy Emmart, corporate schools coordinator of UPS corporate training and development department commented “while in the early ’90s our DSPs (drivers) may have needed to concentrate on eight key tasks each day, they now routinely perform 30 to 40 major tasks within the same time frame.”

UPS responded by completely overhauling the driver training program into a simulation and immersion based experience called UPS Integrad.  It included a training facility that incorporated a mix of e-learning, simulations, virtual learning, and immersive learn by doing.

Here is a video feature from ABC news on the program. Click the image to take you to the video. There is a short ad first–be patient (sorry I couldn’t embed it).

UPS Integrad ABC News Video profile (click to link)

UPS Integrad Video profile (click to link)

Results

The Integrad program has “exceeded expectations” in all three of the program’s primary goal areas, which include enhanced DSP safety, decreased new driver turnover, and accelerated time to proficiency.

“It wasn’t about video games, it was about providing hands-on application and allowing trainees to learn by doing in a way that connects unambiguously with their jobs”.

When UPS originally started the re-design effort they thought the answer to training younger workers was going to be video game-type training.  Through additional research, they learned it wasn’t about video games, it was about “providing hands-on application and allowing trainees to learn by doing in a way that connects unambiguously with their jobs”.  I think this is a useful caution to e-learning designers moving down the path video game style instruction.

Here’s an article that describes the program in more detail:  UPS Moves Driver Training From the Classroom to the Simulator

But is it appropriate for knowledge workers?

The UPS program is an example of mostly physical or psychomotor learning,  but the lessons hold true for knowledge work as well.  For managers to learn “problem solving and decision making” they need to make decisions and solve real work problems first in a simulated setting and then in real work context with feedback and coaching.   New consultants need to consult; learning designers need to design learning, engineers need to design and test solutions all within safe, feedback rich, immersive work contexts.

As UPS summarized so simply, “The point of all this hands-on instruction is to simulate-as closely as possible-exactly what it’s like to be a…”fill in the blank“.

just say no :)

Just say no 🙂

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6 thoughts on “Simulation and Immersive Learning

  1. Astonishing as it seems, there’s no way that classroom-based, instructor-led training could help people master a cluster of skills like these, most of which seem to be psychomotor.

    I’m curious about the number of new drivers UPS hires in a year, and how they can arrange for them all to benefit from the training facility. Do they have or plan to have multiple training stations around the country, or to modify existing vehicles to enable this to happen in several locations?

    I absolutely agree with you that the way for people to learn, especially to learn complex skills, is to work on whole tasks in realistic settings. And so few jobs involve watching bullet-point slides…

  2. Dave:
    I’m not sure about numbers. The article I linked to might have some answers. I agree there must be a lot, which would argue for numerous locations.
    Tom

  3. Interesting. This jumps out at me though –

    ‘The UPS program is an example of mostly physical or psychomotor learning’

    I’m getting a feeling that there’s disconnect (really common) in the evaluation and application of taxonomy. The power of tagging psychomotor is in the ‘skill-of-hand’ or ‘physical synced’ application, imo. Neck up (cog) drives psychomotor application. Decision making, recognition, response – that’s all neck up activity.

    I have a really hard time making the connection between a simulator and psychomotor unless real controls and physical environment manipulables are used. The images in the article are touch-screen over 2D / 3D visual mockups. Not really deeply psychomotor except, perhaps, initial trigger for physical action.

    Regardless of academic semantics, it sounds like the program works for UPS. What works is what matters if the measures are appropriate.

  4. Steve;
    Thanks for the comment. Certainly the device in the video for learning to walk on slippery surfaces was an example of a simulator for a psychomotor skill. The computer simulation you mention was for learning to identify road hazards (discrimination) is a cognitive skill supporting the psychomotor skill of “driving”. The nature of the simulations would be different for knowledge work but the principles would remain.

    I agree with you though that what is important is not the taxonomy but the underlying principle of learning by doing in a context of rich feedback that closely matches the real job. See here for my thoughts on learning taxonomies.

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