The connection between the children’s online world Club Penguin and sustainable construction is not an obvious one. But it was while watching her children complete missions in the online world that Ann Austin conceived the format for the latest online training modules now in use at Lend Lease.
As Lend Lease’s national sustainability manager for project management and construction, Austin has driven the development of 12 different training modules.
“It could otherwise be quite difficult information to swallow,” Austin says. “We’re a bunch of construction engineers, and reading isn’t something we get excited about.
“This has to be compelling, high-quality stuff, because a lot of the information we’re presenting is quite technical and very difficult to make come alive. So we put lots of video and lots of activity into the modules.”
The training modules often take the form of scenarios, running 30 to 45 minutes, with an examination at the end, and are also accredited under the Green Building Council of Australia’s professional development program. “We’ve had very positive feedback from the people who have done the modules, despite many of them being wary about online learning,” Austin says.
“It’s been a really effective way of reaching 1700 people spread all across Australia with a very consistent message, and without having to extract them from their work environment and get them together,” Austin says.
Online becoming more interesting
Change2 managing director Leon Young has been working in the online training space for more than 10 years. He says that while interest in online training was high through the latter part of the last decade, often companies sought to cut costs after the global financial crisis struck, and opted for poor-quality, do-it-yourself training solutions.
“We are seeing people starting to wake up to the idea that online can be used in a whole lot of more interesting ways. They are willing to spend significant sums on 3D simulations, exploratory environments and interactive videos and things of this nature to allow their staff to actually experience and apply the learning in a practical way,” says Young.
Shane Garrett, learning and development officer at Simulation Australia, says that although simulation is historically associated with advanced training such as that given to pilots, the development of low-cost online simulation tools is broadening its application.
“Now domains like mining and health in particular can afford to buy simulators,” Garrett says. “The cost of integrating realistic high-fidelity simulation is just so cheap compared with where it was even five years ago.”
Garrett says sectors including transport, manufacturing, mining and healthcare are all investing in online simulation systems, sometimes using low-cost commercial 3D games engines.
For instance, the South Australian government health department, SA Health, has created a simulator using the Unity3D games engine to train health professionals on the use of electronic health records, while the Australian Centre for Health Innovation (CHI) has created a nurse training simulator called Nursim that is being used to train nurses at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. It is based on a locally developed 3D tool from VastPark.
The general manager for CHI, Susan Harrison, says that Nursim is an ideal complement to face-to-face learning, as it creates a simulated environment that can be accessed at any hour of the day from any location, and doesn’t tie up staff.
“Real world clinical placements are invaluable – they enable students to begin making the connection between the classroom and the real world of nursing,” Harrison says. “But it is getting increasingly challenging to provide clinical placements for these students.”
“Certainly in terms of procedures training and in giving people early hands-on experience of the task, simulation is a great way of doing that,” Garrett says. “It is also a great way of training people fairly realistically without having to tie up expensive equipment or put them in more challenging situations.”
The insurance company CGU has been using Citrix’s GoToWebinar since mid-2010 to deliver webinars on WorkSafe workers’ compensation to staff of the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. The Department has 70,000 staff, of which the vast majority are based in schools spread across the state. This makes organising education sessions difficult.
CGU claims manager Clare Murphy (FCPHR) says with only 15 to 20 staff attending each, this was an inefficient use of her time. Now 150 to 200 staff from across the state attending each webinar.
The key to the program’s success has been ease-of-use — both for her and the attendees, who are able to log in from their desks. “Setting up the webinar and the presentation is quite simple,” Murphy says. “And there’s a lot more capability that I haven’t tapped into.”