Game on: future of safety training is digital

Analysis

Game on: future of safety training is digital

Safety-critical industries will need to adopt creative training solutions such as video games to fully engage the next generation of workers, a conference has heard.

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Safety-critical industries will need to adopt creative training solutions such as video games to engage the next generation of workers, a conference has heard. 

Denis Manson, an instructional designer at Aviation Australia and technical development manager at SenseAbility Studios, told this week's Sydney Safety Conference about the value of games as learning tools in high-risk workplaces. 

Manson said safety-critical industries, such as aviation and mining, required rigorous training programs to ensure employees were familiar with standards. However, programs had a limited life span: what is cutting edge today will probably be obsolete in five years.

Digital natives


A pressing issue for safety-critical industries is Generation Z, aka ‘The Millenials”, who were born in the noughties and will begin entering the workforce from 2018. Millenials are digital natives, having been exposed to computers and iPhones since birth. Workplaces that don’t cater to their unique learning preferences, risk disenfranchising the future workforce.

Safety-critical industries must explore innovative ways of delivering safety training to Gen Z.  As many Millenials are avid gamers, and perhaps because he is a gamer himself, Manson advocates the use of new technologies such as "serious games" to deliver competency-based training in safety-critical workplaces. 

He said video games were a growth area in safety-critical training. This was being driven by the newer generations, including Gen Z, who were more receptive to immersive, entertainment-based learning experiences offered by games. PowerPoint presentations fail to capture their attention.

To help attendees better comprehend the Gen Z learning mentality, Manson recounted an old Chinese proverb:

“Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Involve me and I will understand.”

Manson said young people copped a lot of flak from their older predecessors about their video game habits, with a common perception being that video games "rot the brain".

Misinformed prejudice


Similarly, many training professionals are dismissive of the term ‘game’. In their opinion games cannot possibly serve as training tools; games are frivolous, lightweight and the antithesis of serious. However, Manson suggested this attitude was based on misinformed prejudice rather than experience.

Yes, some video games are intended as pure fun. However, some games can be fun to play while also satisfying the learning objectives of an organisation’s competency-based training and safety induction processes.

These ‘serious games’ can be a productive way of introducing people into high-risk, safety-critical workplaces, providing a virtual reality where real-world scenarios can be played out.

Manson highlighted the use of flight simulators to safely train pilots. He also talked about similar simulators developed to train those in mining and workplaces where new workers might not be prepared for a sensory overload (loud noises, moving machinery etc). 

Training by stealth


Serious games are useful. They engage the user and have training value (i.e. learning outcomes and competency elements). Serious games are ‘training by stealth’: learning disguised as fun. 

During question time, an attendee suggested the cost of developing serious games might be an issue for organisations with limited funds.

Manson’s advice was to seriously consider investing in training apps in the long-term, and to use learning-based board-games in the short term. He said board games promoted healthy competition and boosted concentration and memorisation. 
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