By Anne Little, VP of Training Solutions Development
For all of us, solving anything in life requires doing, making mistakes, and learning from them. With enough experience, each of us develops a unique way to accomplish a task or tackle a problem.
For our armed services personnel protecting our nation, the key to their training for flying an aircraft, operating an armored vehicle, or manipulating a satellite is providing immersive experiences and repetition. They cannot memorize their way to skill sets; they have to go and do them.
The breakthrough of low-cost virtual reality simulators is radically enabling—and personalizing--their training. Relatively inexpensive to create using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products, these simulators can have footprints no larger than an office chair and desk to fit inside living quarters.
These simulators are cost-effective for the Department of Defense and give warfighters anytime access to good-fidelity training. By giving them realistic, hands-on training tools to perform practice reps and build experience through trial and error, they can become mission-ready faster.
From a learning perspective, having the freedom to fiddle with gauges and controls and do self-paced learning at home, between the times in the classroom and the enterprise simulator, brings numerous benefits.
Students are more engaged and inquisitive, can explore on their own, and bring their experiences and questions to class for discussion. The learning environment and culture become student-student and student-instructor collaborative.
The process of learning how to learn is energized. By figuring things out personally--the good, the bad, and the ugly—students refine their individual thought processes and ways to best absorb knowledge. They pick up good learning habits and recognize bad ones.
There is the obvious accelerator benefit: with so much afterhours training and familiarization, they are able to make the most of each time inside the enterprise simulator or real vehicle.
COTS technologies have advanced a long way from even just five years ago. Learning tools and technologies are also benefiting from disruptive leaps in computing power, software development, and artificial intelligence.
Companies like SAIC are becoming increasingly creative and fast in putting together high-quality and cost-effective live, virtual, constructive training solutions, by leveraging commercial VR and videogame equipment and using agile development techniques.
The solutions will thus be easily reconfigurable between different vehicle platforms to put them quickly in the hands of students. As the solutions have gotten better and more affordable, the DOD’s integration of them and nontraditional training approaches into curricula has grown.
Low-cost simulation especially has a place in early training and undergraduate training programs. We are seeing great benefits from our virtual mission trainer for students starting to learn aircraft or vehicle physics and basic control.
This new technology is disrupting training paradigms regarding the use of enterprise simulators. Our continued research in this area is focusing on metrics development, which will allow us to quantify and compare the benefits of low-cost simulators with much higher-cost alternatives.
A learner’s base of experience is like a big rug that fills the floor of a room. The bigger the base, the more there is to lay on. Allowing warfighters to build experience immediately through on-demand simulators goes a long way when they step into the real thing.
About the author: Anne Little, PhD, has more than 20 years of training development and delivery experience. It includes training programs for the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Energy, and Federal Aviation Administration. Anne's research interests include motivational strategies within online learning environments, with a recent focus on re-engineering compliance training programs. She holds a degree in mathematics from Purdue University and a PhD in instructional technology from George Mason University. Connect with Anne on LinkedIn.