Technology Showcase

EP Editorial Staff | May 15, 2013

Stretch Your Training Dollar By Leveraging Technology

Following the economic challenges of 2008, the training landscape eroded; 2012, however, marked a notable turning point in Technology and Manufacturing industries. As highlighted in a Bersin by Deloitte report, The Corporate Learning Factbook 2013: Benchmarks, Trends and Analysis of the U.S. Training Market, mature manufacturing companies that were still focused on creating a learning organizational culture spent 20% more on training in 2012 than 2011 (up 9.5% over the previous two years). Learning and Development professionals agree that the focus of training in industrial sectors is no longer on “continuing education,” but on “continual learning” to ensure a competitive advantage.


Fig. 1. CPR Method of Design

The first differentiator of mature learning organizations is instructional design. Constrained by cost and desiring a high-impact learning experience, talent managers shifted toward pairing novices and experts through communities of practice that leveraged experiential learning opportunities. As skill gaps were assessed, instructional design took a blended approach to conceptual instruction via technology-enabled formats and reinforced skill application facilitated by coaches. Curriculum design became less abstract and more about giving employees what they needed to know to demonstrate desired skills (which were defined based on role responsibility and connection to the company’s strategic goals and objectives. Training, in turn, was measured by the organization’s ability to achieve each objective.

Mature learning organizations also recognized the importance of employee engagement in the learning process. Design of training had to support the various ways by which adults learn and provide relevant material for each employee without increasing costs. At the time of reengineering, training budgets were between $700 and $800 per employee (nearly half pre-2008 $1300-$1500 budgets): Even mature organizations could not afford to customize the training for individual employees. Course design called for a blended approach that standardized content while ensuring relevancy and flexibility for experiential learning. Breakout groups and simulations were incorporated to permit role playing and peer-to-peer dialogue. Coach-assisted practical exercises were engineered to facilitate skills application and immediate 
feedback, and downloadable real-world examples submitted by peers demonstrated each skill in detail for those who were less confident at first.

With the average age of plant population shifting and more technology-savvy learners among the ranks, Learning and Development leaders within mature organizations further set themselves apart by leveraging social media and virtual forums to deliver and reinforce skills application. Learning Management Systems provided chat rooms, live feeds, and online libraries where students could engage their peers in discussion. With “Branching” methods of delivering conceptual content via the Web, students were engaged in a realistic scenario, asked to make decisions along the way based on their personal understanding of a topic, then guided to additional content based on their responses. This facilitated a game-like environment that created relevance and scalability while maintaining content consistency at a lower cost per student.

The final differential deals with the pace of the learning process. Learning and Development leaders understood that adults working full-time and raising families had to be able to participate in training ad hoc. Both conceptual eLearning modules and skill-application assignments had to be structured in a way that allowed completion in short intervals and within a student’s day-to-day responsibilities. Using an adaptation of the popular “CPR” method of instructional design (Fig. 1), leaders challenged designers to constrain themselves to 3-5 minutes of conceptual content delivery, 10-15 minutes for practical exercises within eLearning modules, simulations and group breakouts, and 3-5 minutes to reinforce knowledge through interactive games, quizzes and other activities aimed at ensuring comprehension and retention. 

Based on this type of model, students would spend no more than 25 minutes learning about a skill before they had enough of a foundation to go out and apply it. This required each competency to be broken down into a unique learning objective and content to be delivered in written, visual, and experiential formats in order to ensure a sufficient level of understanding. To build confidence and encourage skill application, coaches were provided to support the student, evaluate performance and supply the necessary level of personal follow-up instruction that would allow the skill to be repeated with confidence and mastery. Again, this prevented the training material from having to be customized for each employee, but still ensured a consistent level of learning across the organization.

What’s important to managers is making sure provided training is retained and applied and that it generates a return on the training investment. The return in the reengineered curriculum comes from direct application of its concepts to a site’s challenges through project-based learning. 

As skill application assignments are completed, projects and the educational experience move in parallel toward a target state. The idea is that the student gets to apply each portion of the training as it is received. When the training is finished, the project is also complete. This method generates a measurable change in performance that a manager can monitor. 

Having worked your way through this reengineered-training model article, try adopting some of the ideas in it to stretch your training dollars while improving results. Remember to put adequate time into instructional design and break topics into small pieces that can be communicated and readily applied within your plant. Use reinforced skill application facilitated by coaches to ensure understanding of material. Apply electronic media to boost motivation through natural competitiveness and allow content to be self-tailored based on performance. Incorporate project-based learning techniques to produce documented results and demonstrated success that can be leveraged to grow your efforts. With this combination, you should see a step change in the value of your training dollars and be able to bring your organization to a new level of performance. MT

With a combined 40 years of industrial experience backing them up, GPAllied subject-matter experts, Shon Isenhour and Darrin Wikoff have successfully reengineered the model for Maintenance and Reliability training. Their University of Tennessee accredited and award-winning inspired Blended Learning (iBL) program is a real-world example of the innovative concepts explained in this article. Take a test drive by visiting and clicking the demonstration link, or email the authors directly at and

The Worldwide Operator Training Simulator Market

According to the ARC Advisory Group (ARC), the worldwide market for Operator Training Simulator (OTS) software and services is set for rapid growth.  The retiring workforce, lack of experienced operators, and manufacturing expansion in emerging markets are major drivers for OTS. 

Operator training simulators are defined as dynamic simulators designed to train process operators using process simulators in the process industries. The study includes information about software technologies, tools, and methodologies that are both high-fidelity solutions that replicate plant operations exactly and generic simulators that are process- or application-specific.  Operator training simulation systems considered in the study include 2D, 3D, generic high fidelity, dynamic high fidelity and virtual type applications.

Currently, the market is at an inflection point. Widespread retirement and job-changing patterns of experienced workers and increased safety concerns are among the factors driving this market.  Suppliers are responding with dynamic high-fidelity solutions that include 2D, 3D, and immersive reality training.  In addition, OTS in the cloud is starting to be an integrated part of the training solution. 

To obtain this ARC report, visit: MT





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